Analysis: Dominic Raab explains the ‘sea was closed’ in Afghanistan holiday furore, but little else

Dominic Raab has responded to criticism for going on holiday during the Afghanistan crisis by essentially refusing to address it.

Rather than explaining why he was “too busy” to make a phone call to his Afghan counterpart that could have saved lives, Mr Raab instead used the morning broadcast round on Wednesday to dismiss some of the colour around the story.

Dealing with the most damning allegations, the foreign secretary insisted he had not gone paddle boarding because the “sea was actually closed”, an explanation as strong as "holding it for a friend".

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Afghanistan: Foreign Secretary defends remaining on holiday as Taliban took Kabu...
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab arrives at the Foreign Office in Westminster, London. Picture: PA

It’s not the first sea-based gaffe from the ardent Brexiteer, having previously admitted he "hadn't quite understood" how reliant UK trade is on the Dover-Calais crossing.

Mr Raab didn’t address why he didn’t return from the five-star holiday resort or whether he convinced the Prime Minister to let him stay, instead saying the matter had been addressed and he wasn’t going to “further the speculation around” it.

Much like the UK Government’s response to allegations from Dominic Cummings, Mr Raab’s defence was essentially “yeah, that’s rubbish, but I don’t have to explain why”.

It follows his previous statement “responding to the inaccurate media reporting” that didn't prove a single allegation wrong.

Allies have been quick to stress his hard-working credentials and how Mr Raab does more than any other minister.

That this defence is anecdotal rather than on specifics fits an approach to criticism the UK Government is now all too familiar with.

It’s becoming somewhat of a trend for ministers to handle criticism like a boyfriend who’s been caught misbehaving, gaslighting complaints until the issue goes away.

And like Barnard Castle, the Russia report, proroguing, the bodies piling high, the Downing Street flat renovation, Priti Patel’s bullying report, Jennifer Arcuri, PPE contracts for donors, or David Cameron texting Rishi Sunak over Greensill, these issues do all go away.

Mr Raab did at least admit “with hindsight” he “would have wanted to be back earlier”.

This is a perfectly reasonable point. How could the foreign secretary know the Taliban might reach Kabul, having taken the rest of the country in less than a week?

As for “would have wanted”, it isn’t saying “should have” been back.

Language is important and Mr Raab has made sure to take as little responsibility as possible.

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