Isabel Hardman

Raab at sea with his latest defence

Raab at sea with his latest defence
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Is Dominic Raab's summer holiday really still an issue as the evacuation of Afghanistan enters its final few hours? According to the Foreign Secretary, it still is. Despite everyone else in Westminster seeming to move on from the fury that accompanied Raab's decision to stay in Crete as the Taliban swept back to power, the minister still has things to say on the matter and is therefore keeping the story alive.

This morning, he was on a broadcast round talking about the evacuation efforts and the reality of there being any protection for Afghans after 31 October. But he was also asked about whether he should have come back from his holiday. His initial answer wasn't that bad: he said that with hindsight he would have liked to have been back in London, but that as Foreign Secretary he was able to work on the crisis remotely anyway. But on Sky News, he grew more irritated about the suggestion that he had been enjoying himself and shirking work. He said:

I was engaged in meetings, the stuff about me lounging around on the beach all day is just nonsense, the stuff about me paddleboarding - nonsense, the sea was actually closed it was a red notice. I was focused on the Cobra meetings.

Why supply further details about the holiday that keeps the story going, particularly when Raab's account has already been queried by fellow holidaymakers who were there at the time too? If the Foreign Secretary wanted the row to die down, he's got a funny way of going about it as he cannot stop talking about what he was and wasn't doing on holiday, along with quotes that are easy to mock such as 'the sea was actually closed'.

His holiday is indeed a small and incidental detail in the question of whether the British government was really on top of matters. It is even less important now as the evacuation starts to come to an end. But Raab is clearly personally stung by the suggestion that he wasn't working hard, and can't help but try to set the record straight. It won't work, it won't help his cause, and it only serves to underline that he is much weakened as a Secretary of State by the events of the past few weeks.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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