‘He can’t tell Asians apart’: Raab in retreat as comedian Nish Kumar backs Gina Miller
Embattled Dominic Raab appeared to be in retreat today as he responded publicly to claims that he had launched an “abusive attack” on Gina Miller – and faced fresh accusations of racial insensitivity towards a BBC comedian, who backs Ms Miller’s version of events.
Asked to comment on Ms Miller’s shocking disclosure, first reported by The Independent, that he had called her “stupid” and “naive” during an “aggressive” encounter at the BBC, Mr Raab failed to deny explicitly that her account was accurate.
Instead, in a carefully worded statement, a spokesperson for the deputy prime minister said Mr Raab “rejects the description and characterisation” of him given by Ms Miller.
After Ms Miller also claimed that Mr Raab had “barked” at a BBC employee to “Go get me a f***ing car”, his spokesperson said the deputy prime minister “always treats people with the utmost respect and has never sworn at staff”.
But Mr Raab came under more pressure when, in a bizarre twist, comedian Nish Kumar joined the row, backing anti-Brexit campaigner Ms Miller.
Mr Kumar said he had witnessed an incident described by Ms Miller, in which Mr Raab confused her brother Gary Marlowe, a GP, with Mr Kumar.
“I have to say I felt no confidence that [Mr Raab] can differentiate between different Asians,” Mr Kumar told The Independent. “It left us both feeling a sense of disrespect and disregard for our identity.”
He added: “What annoyed me was that he had no contrition afterwards. He just went up to the first brown guy he saw, was immediately corrected, but did not even acknowledge that the infraction happened.”
Mr Marlowe said: “He came up to me and said ‘Hi, Nish’ – even though I don’t look anything like [Mr Kumar]. I thought ‘What an idiot.’ Just because we are both brown does not mean we’re interchangeable.
“I have a thick skin. I have been beaten up by National Front thugs, so this is small beer in comparison.”
The row erupted as:
Calls grew for Mr Raab to stand down pending the outcome of an investigation into his behaviour
It emerged that the official inquiry could examineThe Independent’s revelations
The BBC was also facing calls to launch a separate probe into Ms Miller’s claim that Mr Raab swore at a young staff member
Mr Raab’s failure to deny outright Ms Miller’s allegations came hours after an anonymous source called them “baseless and malicious”. It appeared to be an attempt to silence Ms Miller, but it backfired spectacularly after her claims were reinforced by Mr Kumar and her brother.
The revelations have raised the pressure on Mr Raab, who is being investigated over multiple claims of bullying, and increased the likelihood that Rishi Sunak, who promised to put an end to Tory sleaze and misconduct, will have to fire him.
Coming only days after he was forced to sack Tory party chair Nadhim Zahawi following The Independent’s disclosure last July that Mr Zahawi was being investigated for tax fraud, losing Mr Raab would be a blow to Mr Sunak’s hopes of winning the next election.
One former cabinet minister told The Independent that Mr Raab “should stand aside”, saying his role in the cabinet is now “a distraction”. “This has been going on for weeks, and while the prime minister talks about wanting fairness, at the same time this is too much of a distraction from what we need to do as a government,” they said.
Another Tory MP and former minister, meanwhile, accused Mr Sunak and others of being “economical with the facts” and said there was “no way Rishi did not know” about allegations surrounding Mr Raab’s behaviour before he appointed him.
Ms Miller described her exchange with Mr Raab in an article for The Independent in which she said she was “bullied and demeaned” by the deputy prime minister after he called her “stupid” and “naive” during what she described as an “aggressive” encounter after they took part in a debate about Brexit on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in 2016.
She also described a separate incident in which she says Mr Raab confused her brother with Mr Kumar before an appearance on BBC Question Time in 2018.
Speaking about the alleged incident on The Mash Report, Mr Kumar said: “When I walked into the green room, and this is a true story, you were saying ‘Nice to meet you Nish!’ to a man who turned out to be Gina Miller’s brother.
“Even though the show tweeted photos of all of us the day before, so we all know what each other looked like, you just ignored it and went up to the first brown guy you saw and assumed he was me, even though he has glasses and no beard!”
Sources close to Mr Raab say he would have greeted everyone at the recording “as a matter of manners”.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the official investigation into Mr Raab could look at Ms Miller’s allegations. Senior Conservative and former cabinet minister David Davis said he had “no doubt” that the investigation, ordered by Mr Sunak, would look at the claims.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner also called on the prime minister to assure the public that “every potential breach of the ministerial code” by Mr Raab would be investigated.
Downing Street said it was up to the inquiry to decide if it would investigate Ms Miller’s allegations.
The BBC is also facing calls to launch its own separate investigation.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “In the light of these new allegations, the BBC must investigate the incident and give support to the young staffer.”
The BBC has been approached for comment.