Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised after claiming Labour 'only care about cake and animals' amid Partygate row

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Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg hit out at Labour for 'only caring about cakes and animals'. (PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for claiming Labour “only care about cake and animals” after an opposition MP questioned him about the controversial airlift of animals out of Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson has been accused of lying over his involvement in evacuating cats and dogs with the Nowzad charity from Kabul after a leaked email claimed the PM approved it.

The PM denied his involvement once again on Thursday, saying it was “total rhubarb” to say he approved airlifting the animals at the expense of people.

The airlift took place as thousands of people who wanted to flee the Taliban were left behind.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said emails appeared to suggest Johnson “did intervene", and demanded Rees-Mogg – the leader of the House – to “explain what happened”.

Previously unreleased image dated 12/03/14 of Puppies that been rescued and are looking to be re-homed inside the kennels at the Nowzad Dogs charity based in Kabul, Afghanistan, a British charity set up by former Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing in 2007.   (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson denied approving evacuating cats and dogs with the Nowzad charity from Kabul. (PA)

Rees-Mogg said that Labour was focused on “the fripperies and the trivia” – and, in reference to reports Johnson celebrated his birthday at a lockdown-busting party – only cared about “cakes and animals”.

He told Dodds: “The Ministry of Defence got 15,000 people out of Afghanistan in an extraordinary operation, an amazingly successful operation and again the Opposition is dealing with the fripperies and with the trivia, not with the really big picture.

“All they care about is cake and animals, whereas we are getting on with the important business of government.”

Watch: Labour: Leaked email shows you can't believe a word PM says

He also told former Labour minister Chris Bryant that he was “fussing about a few animals” after he pushed government over its “priorities” in who to evacuate from Afghanistan.

“This was an incredibly successful and pressurised operation and our armed forces once again showed what amazing things they can do when called upon to do it,” Rees-Mogg said.

He added: “And the honourable gentleman is fussing about a few animals. I think it shows the level of seriousness which he characteristically brings to today’s debate.”

Labour MP Matt Western described Rees-Mong’s comments as “unbelievable”, adding: “Let’s be clear here, it was the prime minister and his wife who were more ‘worried about a few animals’ when they should have saved the brave interpreters who served our British forces over 20 years.”

Labour’s Seema Malhotra said she was “speechless” after hearing Rees-Mogg’s answer.

The row broke out on Wednesday after emails shared with the Foreign Affairs Committee show an official in Foreign Office minister Lord Goldsmith’s private office told colleagues on 25 August that “the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated”.

Another Foreign Office official referred to the “PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity” in a separate email sent on 25 August.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has been accused of lying about his involvement of approving animals to be flown out of Afghanistan. (Getty)

They were submitted to the MPs by Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office at the time, and alleges the animals were evacuated following an order from Johnson.

And on Thursday, fresh emails emerged from the deputy principal private secretary to Mr Raab at the time discussing Nowzad staff being called forward for evacuation.

“The FS [foreign secretary] is seeking a steer from No 10 on whether to call them forward now,” it read.

Downing Street insisted Johnson played “no role” in authorising individual evacuations during the RAF rescue mission, Operation Pitting.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, Nowzad founder Paul “Pen” Farthing launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out, using a plane funded through donations.

31 October 2015 - Kabul, Afghanistan. Pen Farthing (44) ex royal marine UK navy is the founder of the Nowzad veterinary clinic. . The name of clinic means new born. It opened in 2013 and it is the only vet clinic in Afghanistan. (Photo by Alessandro Rota/Getty Images)
Pen Farthing, the ex Royal Marine and founder of the Nowzad veterinary clinic. (Getty)

The government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to allegations that animals had been prioritised over people in the exit effort.

Dominic Dyer, an ally of Farthing, has said he had spoken with ministers and Johnson’s wife Carrie to “put pressure on him” over the evacuation.

On Thursday, Dyer said he felt “vindicated” by the newly-released emails, adding: “I’m not certain why he didn’t feel he could explain his involvement in August at the end of this operation.”

Watch: Boris Johnson accused of lying about Afghan dog rescue

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