On a sunny day in Surrey, Dominic Raab arrived to meet me without the trappings of office. No ministerial car, no aides, no title beyond backbench Conservative MP. He expressed no contrition, but did say he would apologize to anyone who had “subjective hurt feelings” due to his conduct. His words were striking, as they highlighted the essence of the whole affair: how the behaviour of someone feels to someone else. The report was complex and nuanced, but Raab sought to defend and justify his manner and conduct, arguing that it was an important case study in the failures of the relationship between the civil service and its political masters.
Raab’s description of some civil servants as “activist” is explosive and will likely provoke a wider national conversation about what is appropriate behaviour at work in 2023. He also refused to say whether he would stand for re-election in Esher and Walton, the seat he has represented since 2010. The Liberal Democrats are eager to take the seat from him, seeing it as one of many potential gains around London.
The day Prime Minister Rishi Sunak lost his long-standing ally and deputy was a bad one in Downing Street. Sunak avoided questions but they won’t disappear. Many Conservatives had predicted Raab’s departure for months, but plenty sympathize with his point of view. The Prime Minister can’t afford many days like this, as it could lead to Conservative insurrection.