Look, everyone deserves a holiday. It’s not a crime to take a break from it all. And no one needs a holiday more than us, as a nation. A break, specifically, from questions about Dominic Raab’s holiday. But I’m afraid that day is not today. The request’s gone into the line manager and it’s bad news.
It is now two weeks since Dominic Raab came back from his holiday in Crete, though sadly closer to three since Kabul fell to the Taliban and a massive last-minute evacuation effort had to begin, which for several days did not extend to the evacuation of the foreign secretary to London via Heraklion International.
It is, remarkably, still not known when exactly Raab left for his holiday to Crete. It is remarkable because the foreign secretary still refuses to answer the question. And he has never refused to answer in more spectacular fashion than on live television on Wednesday afternoon, when he was directly asked that question 11 separate times at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
On three of the occasions, Raab replied that he wasn’t going “to add to the speculation” about his holiday, which is not unlike finding your house on fire but refusing to call the fire brigade because they’ll only come around and chuck petrol all over it.
The reason, almost three agonising weeks later, speculation about Dominic Raab’s holiday is ongoing is because he refuses to end it by giving a straight answer to the very simple question of when he went on holiday. That his only remaining excuse is that he won’t “add to the speculation” by, you know, ending it, is all that there can possibly be left to say on the subject.
Well, not quite. He would also go on to describe questions about his holiday as a “fishing expedition”. This, in case, you don’t know, is a vaguely legal term for investigating someone for wrongdoing without any evidence, but just hoping you’ll find some.
Unfortunately for Dominic Raab, America is also vaguely involved in the Afghanistan story, and in the US, a fishing expedition is a cultural byword for idleness, for being absent without leave. If Dominic Raab were the US secretary of state and had been on holiday during the most significant foreign policy crisis of the last 20 years, it is highly likely the newspapers there would describe him as having “gone fishin’”. Still, at least, thanks to his and his boss’s efforts, no one there much cares what he says or doesn’t do anymore.
It does matter, all this. And it matters for a very serious reason. At the Foreign Affairs Committee, the chairman Tom Tugendhat also drew attention to an internal government report that warned that the Taliban advance on Kabul was advancing far quicker than had been foreseen, and that Kabul could fall as soon as 22 July.
Such a report strongly intimates that the prime minister and the foreign secretary, who is also the de facto deputy prime minister, chose to go away on their summer hols very much inside the window in which it had been warned the disaster in Kabul would occur. Raab disagreed, naturally. The “central assessment” was that Kabul would be secure “until the new year”.
Look, it’s easy to be wise with hindsight. And perhaps it is only with hindsight that you can read the many news reports in the weeks leading up to mid-August that detail the various killing sprees undertaken by the Taliban on their 1,500-mile march over the Pakistan border and into Kabul. A 1,500-mile march is not something, apparently, that anybody should have seen coming. And if they choose to pop over to Crete for some R&R when there are only 250 miles or so of it to go then who are we to criticise?
Dominic Raab did the very best he could, that much is clear. What is also clear, is that his best is a stunningly long way short of good enough.