James Forsyth

Dominic Raab’s conference speech won’t harm his leadership ambitions

Dominic Raab's conference speech won't harm his leadership ambitions
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Dominic Raab has just given an impressive, grown-up speech to Tory conference that will see his stock rise still further.

The Brexit Secretary began his speech by appealing for tolerance, pointing out that there were good arguments—and good people—on both sides of the referendum campaign.  He even acknowledged that some Brexiteers had been too quick to dismiss Remain’s warnings about how difficult leaving would be. It was a reminder of how much easier it is for someone who isn’t trying to prove their Brexit credentials to adopt the emollient tone that’s needed if the country is to be brought back together.

Raab walked a tightrope on Chequers, defending the principles of the deal but not ruling out a different approach. He said that ‘we will listen to alternative ways of delivering on the strategic criteria we have set out.’

But the most powerful part of the speech was when Raab talked about how his father had fled the Nazis and come to Britain in 1938:

Eighty years ago – 1938 - Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The lucky few fled. Some of them to Britain. One Jewish family arrived in England with a little boy called Peter. He was six years old and he spoke no English. That little boy grew up knowing that his grandmother, grandfather, most of his relatives, the loved ones left behind, had been systematically murdered for no other reason than that they were Jews.

That little boy learnt English. He got into a Grammar School. And grasped the opportunities and embraced the tolerance that our great country offers. He became a food-manager at Marks and Spencer, and married a clothes buyer, a Church of England girl from Bromley. But he never forgot what had happened to his family.

That little boy was my father. And I will honour his memory by fighting the scourge of antisemitism and racism until my last breath.

This is why he is so determined to drive Jeremy Corbyn and ‘their extremist gang...back to the margins where they belong.’

Raab has been talked about as a dark horse candidate for the Tory leadership. But I suspect that after this speech, he’ll start to be seen as one of the leading contenders.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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