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by Louise Wilson
05 July 2022
Sketch: Dominic Raab deputises as chief clown

Alamy Stock Photo

Sketch: Dominic Raab deputises as chief clown

Roll up, roll up for Deputy Clown Dominic Raab. Officially he may be Deputy Prime Minister, but it’s clear he thinks that involves mimicking BoJo, the World’s Most Famous Clown, at every possible opportunity by blustering his way through interviews; misleading voters and journalists, then attempting to weasel out of it; and generally making a mockery of himself and the office he holds. Because when Boris Johnson isn’t available to do it himself, his deputy is on hand to be a charlatan.

This morning’s round of interviews was a shining example of Raab’s true role. First up he told BBC Radio 4’s Justin Webb that suggestions the Prime Minister was briefed about Chris Pincher’s behaviour was “just factually incorrect”.

“Let me tell you what happened,” Raab began, before launching into a very long-winded story which didn’t actually mention his boss but did, importantly, absolve Raab himself. When the allegations against Pincher emerged in 2019, Raab followed both the spirit and letter of rules on handling such matters, he said. In fact, he had gone further by double checking things with the propriety and ethics team.

Which was all very interesting, of course. But not what Webb had asked, so the journalist tried again. Was Boris Johnson told about any of this?

“Not by me,” Raab replied.

Interesting choice of words. Was he told by anyone, Webb asked.

“I don’t know whether he was told directly,” the deputy PM replied, rather making a mockery of his earlier suggestion that the PM being brief was “factually incorrect”. If he doesn’t know whether the PM was told, how can he confidently insist reports that he was not told were wrong? Webb pointed to the letter from Sir Simon McDonald, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office at the time. Doesn’t Raab believe the word of Lord McDonald?

Well, everything in that letter was “news to me” said Raab. “I wasn’t aware of that and it’s not clear to me that that is factually accurate,” he added, stopping short this time of saying it definitely was factually inaccurate.

Poor Raab, stuck between a rock (the need to defend his boss) and a hard place (the fact his boss is indefensible). Webb poked Raab a bit more and seemed to hit a sore spot. “I don’t know!” Raab insisted, getting rather defensive. “What I’m telling you is that is news to me.”

Realising he’d strayed a bit far from the line the comms team had provided, he began backtracking. “I’ve discussed this with the Prime Minister of the last 24 hours. It is not my understanding that he was directly briefed.”

But did Johnson tell you he wasn’t briefed, Webb asked? There came no actual answer to that one. “I didn’t ask him, and he didn’t raise it with me.” As justice secretary, Raab is quite comfortable with the concept of plausible deniability.

He continued to prove how on top of the justice brief he is by tackling Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid about her using the word guilty less than an hour later. He’d rather not use it because that makes Pincher look, well, guilty of the things he has been accused of. Sure, an investigation substantiated the claims made against him, but does that really make him guilty?

“You say found guilty. Actually, no formal disciplinary action was taken,” Raab insisted. Reid tried again, highlighting that if a claim was made and upheld after an investigation, surely that meant guilt. “No, no. Guilty is a very loaded term,” Raab argued.

He was getting defensive again. “Susannah, you always do this. Let me give you the account and your viewers can make up their minds. I’m always happy to answer difficult questions…”

Sad clown Raab. He was probably wishing he’d turned down the morning media rounds and was instead on a flight to Greece. Even if the sea is closed, it would be more enjoyable than this.

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