Raab being made a scapegoat for handling of Afghanistan, says former minister

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A senior Conservative MP has said Dominic Raab is being made a “scapegoat” over the handling of the Afghanistan crisis as pressure grows from opposition parties for the Foreign Secretary to resign.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis said it was “nonsense” that Mr Raab should consider his position after he was found to be on holiday in Crete as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said that while there had clearly been failings in the handling of the crisis by the Government, they could not be directed at any one person and that having worked with Mr Raab he was a “workaholic” who would often pull 60-hour weeks.

Mr Davis said: “I used to be a minister of state at the Foreign Office in August, and I talked to all sorts of people – the president of Colombia on one occasion to organise a hostage rescue, so this is a sort of nonsense.”

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Conservative MP David Davis on the Andrew Marr show (BBC/PA)

He added: “Last Friday, nobody in the House of Commons, or anywhere in Fleet Street or anywhere, or indeed, in the organisation of the Taliban knew that they would have, by Sunday, taken Kabul. Nobody.

“The Americans were saying it could happen in 30 days, our own intelligence said similar. So the idea that somebody should rush back from a holiday – frankly, a workaholic minister, which is what he is – is sort of daft, really, it’s worse than 20:20 hindsight.

“The Government’s not had a good week, let’s be clear about this, in terms of the handling of this crisis, and it looks like somebody is trying to scapegoat one member of Government.”

Other Conservative MPs have also defended Mr Raab.

Helen Grant, the Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald and a former sports minister, wrote on Twitter: “Dominic Raab is moving heaven and earth to get Brits and Afghans who helped us, safely out of Afghanistan, doubling aid to £286m, and leading the international response to the crisis. Meanwhile Labour has nothing to offer but nasty personal attacks.”

Tory MP for Basingstoke Maria Miller said: “This is not the time for this sort of high personal attack – what the people of Afghanistan need is the international community to come together to develop a long-term strategy for Afghanistan which is what Dominic Raab is doing.”

Asked about Mr Raab’s actions on Sky News, defence minister James Heappey said people at all levels in the UK Government are “working their backsides off” to evacuate people.

However, others felt there was still more to do to stabilise the situation.

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Maria Miller MP (Yui Mok/PA)

One senior Tory MP said the Government needed to put in place a single contact for the evacuation effort.

Another reportedly told the Guardian Mr Raab’s position was untenable and that “not coming home was his biggest mistake”.

A third prominent Tory figure said the handling had been chaotic, but that the focus now needed to be on evacuating people from Afghanistan, with questions to be asked later.

Opposition parties have stepped up their calls for Mr Raab to go.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “It is utterly unforgivable that when Afghanistan was falling, Dominic Raab was too busy relaxing on a sun lounger in a five-star luxury holiday resort to fulfil the basic duties of his job.

“The Foreign Secretary has put people’s lives at risk and he must go – or he will do long-term damage to his role and the credibility and authority of the Tory government.

“This is a serious question of judgment for Boris Johnson. If Mr Raab doesn’t resign, he must be sacked, or the Prime Minister’s own position will become even more precarious.”

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “For the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to be on holiday during the biggest foreign policy crisis in a generation is an unforgivable failure of leadership.”

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