Raab clings on after revelations foreign secretary ‘nobbled’ PM to stay on his luxury holiday as Taliban took Kabul

Beyond England Commentary Opinion Westminster Whitehall

Dominic Raab’s tenure as foreign secretary is under increasing threat after it emerged he “nobbled” the prime minister into letting him stay in Crete despite being told by advisors to return and deal with the Afghan crisis.

It has transpired that not only was the foreign secretary sunning himself on the Greek island, but the unelected foreign office minister with responsibility for Afghanistan, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, was similarly enjoying his holiday and didn’t return until Sunday (August 15) – the day the Taliban took Kabul.

The latest revelations reveal the foreign secretary was “ordered home from his holiday in Crete by Downing Street” as the Afghan crisis deepened, yet Raab decided to stay an extra couple of days at the five-star resort – it was the weekend after all, and besides, as today’s (August 22) Sunday Times reports, “Boris Johnson told him he could”.

Raab ‘nobbled’ the PM to let him stay in Crete

So Raab did, despite the advice from a senior official in Number 10 telling the foreign secretary to get back to Britain and deal with the escalating crisis. However, rather than do so, Raab “nobbled” the PM into letting him stay a little longer, according to a source, meaning the foreign secretary didn’t actually land back in Britain until 1.40am on Monday (August 16).

Raab’s reluctance to cut short his luxurious beach holiday has loud echoes of Johnson’s Christmas vacation in the Caribbean when the prime minister was roundly criticised for drinking cocktails while the world reeled following the assassination of an Iranian general.

“Leadership is knowing when to vacate the sun lounger”, reminds the Financial Times, adding: “Judging the moment to put down the piña colada is a requisite skill”.

It is also about knowing when to pick up the phone and do the job he has been entrusted to do on behalf of the citizens of this country. Something Raab signally failed to do given his decision to delegate a “rescue call” to discuss evacuations from Afghanistan to a junior minister. A call that wsn’t made.

Raab, Johnson and Ahmad holidaying as Kabul fell to Taliban

Raab was not the only minister missing-in-action as the Taliban swept through Afghanistan, as the prime minister himself – as well as Ahmad – deemed that very same weekend an opportune moment to go on his jollies a day before the capital fell.

Johnson seems to have a long ingrained habit for such behaviour, given, a decade ago, when, as mayor of London he was late to return from holidays even as the city endured days of rioting after the shooting of Mark Duggan by police.

Senior government positions deliver the perks, prestige and largesse to be enjoyed by the occupants of the highest offices of state – but it also requires ministers to accept the responsibilities the positions entail.

However, Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary – just like his boss, the PM – seems more interested in the former. And, the whole population of the country, including those in foreign lands, are paying the price.

Johnson’s cabinet is perhaps the most inept, dysfunctional and dubious ever with front bench ministers of the calibre of Raab, Gavin Williamson and Priti Patel, on top of appointments such as Dido Harding. Matt Hancock is the only one who has resigned after pressure – and that for getting caught on CCTV kissing his aide rather than for any one from a litany of scandals, including the high court finding that he acted unlawfully in awarding PPE contracts.

Tory MPs’ anger turns on Raab

Given their performance to date and their consistent mishandling of myriad crises directly resulting from 11 years of Conservative rule, the question left hanging is would the presence of Johnson, Raab or Ahmad have made any marked difference to the fate of the thousands trying to flee Afghanistan?

The big question Raab has to answer is will he hang on as foreign secretary given, as the Times’ reported on Saturday (August 21), Tory MPs have turned on the foreign secretary who “has become a target for colleagues’ anger” following “a week of chaos and carnage”.

Johnson, whose other big habit is an inert reluctance to sack his ministers, may have no option but to get rid of the man who himself stood as a Tory leadership contender following Theresa May’s resignation, and who, by virtue, could very well have been the UK’s prime minister.

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