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Losing Dominic Raab was a bad day for Rishi Sunak

Losing Dominic Raab was a bad day for Rishi Sunak

Dominic Raab arrived to meet me in his constituency in Surrey, the trappings of office gone.

No ministerial car, no aides, no title, beyond backbench Conservative MP.

There was little in the way of contrition, although he did say he would apologise to anyone who he described as having "subjective hurt feelings."

Three very striking words - striking, as they do, at the very essence of this whole affair.

How the behaviour of someone feels to someone else.

It is in the eye, the mind, the stomach of the beholder.

Remember, complainants across three government departments thought his behaviour was unacceptable - and sufficiently so to provide testimony to this inquiry.

The report, in the round, is complex, caveated and nuanced.

In our conversation, Mr Raab sought to defend, to justify his manner and conduct - and, moreover, argue his experience was an important case study in what he saw as the failures of the relationship between that engine room of government, a civil service duty bound to be impartial, and its political masters.

'Activist' civil servants

Mr Raab's description of some civil servants as "activist" is, in this context, explosive.

Sufficiently so, some civil servants see it as a conspiracy concocted to distract attention from the criticisms he's faced.

His account, too, will provoke a wider national conversation - about what is appropriate behaviour at work in 2023.

And from the national to the local: one intriguing titbit in the interview was Dominic Raab repeatedly refusing to say if he will stand at the next election in Esher and Walton, the seat he has represented since 2010.

The Liberal Democrats are desperate to snatch the seat from him.

It is one constituency in what one party strategist described to me as a "yellow halo" of spots around London that the Lib Dems see as potential gains at the next general election.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey was there in the patch in the blink of an eye to make that case.

Back at Westminster, curiously, the prime minister - on the day he lost his long-standing ally and deputy - hasn't managed to find any of our cameras.

Would Rishi Sunak have sacked him?

Does he agree with Mr Raab's analysis?

I am told the prime minister had a busy diary, not least being caught up in meetings relating to the fighting in Sudan.

PM loses his number two

Avoiding questions now won't mean they disappear.

The day a prime minister loses their number two is a bad day in Downing Street.

But Mr Sunak is inoculated - to a degree - from outright Conservative insurrection, after the party's recent flirtation with oblivion last autumn.

Plenty of Conservatives are not surprised that after all of this Dominic Raab is out of government. They had predicted it for months.

But plenty have sympathy with his point of view.

But, taking a step back, the prime minister can't afford many days like this.


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