Killer political blow for UK’s karate-loving deputy PM
Dominic Raab has had a bumpy ride in British politics ranging from an aborted try to be Tory chief to a stinging demotion after failing to rush back to work from holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban.
But the 49-year-old black belt in karate has just suffered his most serious blow yet, when he was felled on Friday by claims he was a serial bully who has shown no respect to his civil servants down the years.
He resigned as deputy prime minister, but he has refused to go down without a fight, blasting the inquiry as “flawed” for setting a low bar on bullying, and defending his management style.
Raab had already suffered the indignity of losing the role of foreign secretary when prime minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet in September 2021.
That came a month after the Taliban seized Kabul.
Raab failed initially to cut short a family holiday in Greece as his civil servants were frantically engaged with the UK military in trying to get Britons and Afghan staff out of Afghanistan.
While he retained the role of deputy prime minister, it marked a political reversal for the man who was entrusted with leading the country when Johnson was in intensive care with Covid-19.
The former lawyer was acting prime minister for three weeks as Johnson recovered from his brush with death, in the depths of Britain’s first wave of the virus in April 2020.
In contrast to Johnson, Raab was credited at the time with an unfussy and pragmatic approach to leadership that made him the right man for a crisis.
His former diary secretary says Raab’s style extended to him ordering the same lunch every day — a chicken and bacon sandwich, a smoothie and a mixed fruit pot.
The conclusions of the new report painted a different picture.
His allegedly hectoring style with underlings saw him hurl tomatoes across the room during one meeting, according to one newspaper report last year that was dismissed as “nonsense” by Raab’s spokesman.
Raab was one of the most prominent figures in Britain’s protracted and divisive process to leave the European Union, serving as Brexit minister under former premier Theresa May.
He quit after just three months in November 2018 in protest at May’s doomed divorce deal with Brussels, which he said offered too many concessions.
– Seat in danger –
When Johnson became Conservative party leader and prime minister after May’s resignation in July 2019, Raab was catapulted back into government.
Raab, who has law degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge universities, had ambitions himself for the top job, challenging Johnson for the Tory leadership after May quit.
But he trailed in sixth in the leadership contest after a stuttering campaign that was marked by rows over his past views on militant feminism.
His spell in the Brexit ministry also floundered, and was notable for his admission he “hadn’t quite understood” the economic importance of the port in Dover.
Raab is married with two sons. His Czech-born Jewish father came to Britain in 1938 as a six-year-old refugee. He died of cancer when Raab was 12 and his mother brought him up in the Church of England.
He competed in karate for 17 years, making the UK squad, and he is also a keen boxer.
After studies, he became an international lawyer at London legal firm Linklaters before joining the Foreign Office in 2000 as an advisor.
Raab was posted to The Hague in 2003 to head a team focused on bringing justice to war criminals including Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor.
Raab entered parliament in 2010 in the Conservative seat of Esher and Walton, in the commuter belt southwest of London, and was given his first role in government five years later.
Then ultra-safe, the seat has grown more competitive as Conservative fortunes have slumped nationally.
The opposition Liberal Democrats have made it one of their top targets at the next general election, meaning Raab could crash out of parliament as well as government.
Originally published as Killer political blow for UK’s karate-loving deputy PM