LONDON: British MP Tobias Ellwood has resigned from his position as chair of a Commons committee following a backlash to comments he made after a visit to Afghanistan, in which he praised the Taliban.
In a video he posted on social media in July, the Conservative politician described Afghanistan as a “country transformed” in the aftermath the Taliban takeover in August 2021. He said “security has vastly improved, corruption is down and the opium trade has all but disappeared.”
The former defense minister made little mention of women’s rights, which have greatly diminished under Taliban rule.
Ellwood’s remarks were condemned by Afghan women, military veterans, and several members of the cross-party defense select committee he chaired, including some Conservative colleagues.
He resigned on Wednesday, the day before a vote of no confidence was expected to take place, The Guardian newspaper reported. It was tabled in July, before Parliament broke up for the summer, by four of his fellow committee members: Conservatives Mark Francois, a former armed forces minister, and Richard Drax, and Labour Party MPs Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg. The committee has 11 members in total, so six votes would have forced him out.
As he announced his resignation, Ellwood admitted he was guilty of “poor communications” in relation to his comments. He said that although he believed he still had the backing of a majority of committee members, continuing to serve as its chairperson would be a distraction.
“I believe I have a strong voice when it comes to defense and security,” he said. “I stand up, speak my mind. I don’t always get it right, so it’s right I put my hand up when I don’t.”
Ellwood tried to defuse the row in July by deleting the video and issuing an apology in which he said: “My reflection(s) of my visit could have been much better worded and have been taken out of context.”
Francois told the Commons in July he was “absolutely stunned” by a video “lauding the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan, not mentioning they’re still trying to identify and kill Afghan civilians who sided with NATO forces, and also not mentioning the fact they don’t like girls to go to school.”
Ellwood’s replacement on the committee will be chosen in a secret ballot of all MPs.