Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

The delusion of Dominic Raab

(Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson will never sack ministers for being tawdry, lazy and incapable of doing their jobs — if he did, he would have to sack himself. Nevertheless, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s investigation into the Foreign Office’s complicity in the Afghanistan catastrophe showed the consequences of the collapse in standards in ministerial competence better than any public inquiry I have seen.

The autopsy was all the bloodier because Tom Tugendhat, who should be foreign secretary, was asking the questions, and Dominic Rabb, who really shouldn’t be foreign secretary, was ducking them. Raab’s demonstration of what he did not know was almost awe-inspiring. Did he, for example, know how many ministers were overseas right now?

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Raab wouldn’t say for security reasons. His reply sounded convincing in a ‘your question threatens the very fabric of the nation’ manner until Tugendhat asked when was the last time a foreign minister visited Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Afghanistan’s northern neighbours.

Raab did not know,

His German counterpart would have had no difficulty with the question. The German foreign minister Heiko Mass toured central Asia as the crisis built, assuring its governments that Germany would take refugees entitled to sanctuary. For women and men who could not get out at Kabul airport, his presence and promise allowed them to cross the border. Too late for Raab to follow suit now, assuming he can find it in himself to get on a plane that isn’t heading to a luxury holiday destination. Uzbekistan has closed its borders. When was the last time Raab spoke to Her Majesty’s ambassadors in Pakistan and other neighbouring states?

Raab didn’t know.

If this fiasco was planned, I’d hate to see what Raab winging it looks like

He insisted it did not matter that he didn’t know. Ambassadors fed their views into a central Foreign Office machine, which took a ‘holistic view’.

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