Dominic Raab: The high-profile casualty of Liz Truss’s cabinet reshuffle

·5-min read
Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton since 2010 (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton since 2010 (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Dominic Raab has become a high-profile casualty as incoming prime minister Liz Truss puts together her new cabinet.

Lasting less than a year in his latest position of deputy prime minister, lord chancellor and justice secretary, the 48-year-old who backed Rishi Sunak to be the next Tory leader reportedly admitted this week it was likely he would face the sack.

The Esher and Walton MP since 2010 is also believed to have said he thinks he has a 50/50 chance of holding onto his constituency seat at the next election.

In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, he said: “Thanks to the brilliant MoJ team for all their hard work over the last year. Good luck to the new PM and her team. I look forward to supporting the government from the backbenches.”

Mr Raab’s tenure heading up the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) followed his demotion from foreign secretary in September last year after widespread criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, marking a setback in his political ambitions.

He was on holiday in Crete in August last year as the Taliban swept across the country and was seen relaxing on a beach on the Greek island as members of the militant group entered Kabul, although he insisted he was in touch with officials and ministerial colleagues.

Mr Raab had designs on the Tory leadership in 2019, although he fell at the second hurdle and subsequently backed Boris Johnson.

But when the then-Prime Minister was admitted to hospital with coronavirus in 2020, Mr Raab, as first secretary of state, found himself effectively leading the Government during some of the darkest days of the pandemic – a role later formalised by being granted the title of deputy prime minister.

Dominic Raab (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Dominic Raab (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

He came under fire yet again this year for being on holiday amid a crisis on his watch, with criminal barristers voting for an all-out strike as he was on leave in Surrey with his family. Again, aides insisted he was in regular contact with MoJ officials.

During his almost 12-month stint at the department, Mr Raab decided to personally review requests to move high-risk offenders to open jails. He also called for a “fundamental overhaul” of the Parole Board, arguing the case for altering the process was “clear and made out” as he vowed to “enforce public safety”, after several prisoners were controversially freed despite an outcry.

However his plans to shake up UK human rights laws were condemned by critics as a “systematic gutting of key legal protections”.

The Bill of Rights, previously described as a replacement to the Human Rights Act, would add a “healthy dose of common sense” and curtail “abuses” of the system, Mr Raab said.

Announcing a series of legal reforms which could pave the way for the first victims’ law in a bid to provide better support and increase the conviction rate, he promised to put the “needs and voices” of victims “firmly at the heart of the justice system”.

But Mr Raab leaves his post at a time when many see the justice system as being in crisis while high court backlogs in cases waiting to be dealt with remain. Industrial action by members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) continued for a 22nd week, with the barristers now on a continuous strike until there is a change in the government’s position on their conditions and pay.

The Karate black belt, who was a Foreign Office lawyer before turning to politics, was previously known to play up his image as a Brexit hard man in an attempt to win support from the Tory right.

Dominic Raab lost his job as foreign secretary as Boris Johnson reshuffled his Cabinet (Jeff Gilbert/Daily Telegraph/PA) (PA Wire)
Dominic Raab lost his job as foreign secretary as Boris Johnson reshuffled his Cabinet (Jeff Gilbert/Daily Telegraph/PA) (PA Wire)

In 2018 he quit his Cabinet role as Brexit secretary in protest against Theresa May’s approach to the issue.

His political career suffered an early setback, with Mrs May taking particular offence at his description of some feminists as “obnoxious bigots” in a 2011 online article in which he attacked the “equality bandwagon” and said men were getting “a raw deal”.

During the 2019 leadership contest, he said he would “probably not” describe himself as a feminist although he was “all for working women making the very best of their potential”.

In 2020, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, the married father-of-two suggested “taking the knee” was a symbol of subjugation which originated in TV drama Game Of Thrones, adding he only kneels for “the Queen and the missus when I asked her to marry me”.

He was challenged on his comments again in December last year when he appeared before the Joint Committee on Human Rights for the first time since becoming justice secretary.

In a frosty exchange, Mr Raab insisted he was an “ardent champion of equality” after then chairman Harriet Harman told him to “eat his words” for branding feminists “obnoxious bigots”.

The son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938, Mr Raab was brought up in Buckinghamshire and studied law at Oxford University before switching to Cambridge for his masters.

He competed in karate for 17 years, winning two British southern region titles, and making the UK squad.

Mr Raab also enjoyed boxing at university and claims it has been “pretty good in terms of preparing me for other big moments”, although “nothing has ever wracked me with nerves quite the same way”.

The senior Tory denied claims, made by his former diary secretary in 2018, that he insisted on the same Pret A Manger lunch every day.

The “Dom Raab special” apparently consisted of a chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, superfruit pot and a vitamin volcano smoothie.