Dominic Raab is not budging in his conviction that he did everything he could for Afghanistan while he was on his Cretan holiday. The Foreign Secretary has issued a statement in which he argues that the recommendation from his civil servants to call the Afghan foreign minister was ‘quickly overtaken by events’ and that he passed the call onto a junior minister ‘because I was prioritising security and capacity at the airport’. He then argues that this priority ‘was the right one’ and points out the numbers of people who have been evacuated.
The focus on Raab’s holiday is in some ways out of proportion, connected perhaps to people’s feelings of general powerlessness at the crisis in Afghanistan. But on the other hand, it is an illustration of how the government was caught on the hop. The Foreign Secretary, generally regarded as a very safe pair of hands, felt it was acceptable to spend several hours on a beach as the Taliban advanced on Kabul. That he then continued with his holiday suggests a poor attitude towards the crisis that has surprised even his allies.
He has also made the story bigger by quibbling details like how long he was on the beach and being visibly furious in the Commons whenever the holiday was mentioned, which has attracted further attention. But what has made things particularly hard for the minister when it comes to relations with Conservative backbenchers is not where he was as the crisis deepened, but the fact that he and Boris Johnson obviously did not have a plan and still do not have one. One Raab fan remarked to me straight after his speech in the Commons on Wednesday that ‘they simply do not have a plan.