Raab on the ropes: In bid to spare him, Foreign Office said crucial call to save Afghan translators’ lives was delegated to a junior minister. Now they admit – NO one rang… and Dominic Raab’s job hangs by a thread
- Dominic Raab had been advised by officials to interrupt his luxury trip in Crete to urgently contact his Afghan counterpart
- Foreign Secretary failed to make the call and it was ‘delegated’ to junior minister
- But in an explosive development, it emerged the call had never taken place
- Revelation will intensify the pressure on Raab who faced a clamour to reconsider his position and resign
Dominic Raab’s job was hanging by a thread last night as it emerged the crucial phone call that was delegated to a junior minister never took place.
Tory MPs yesterday joined a ferocious backlash against the Foreign Secretary over his failure to intervene while on holiday to help airlift translators out of Afghanistan. The Mail revealed yesterday that Mr Raab had been advised by officials to interrupt his luxury trip to Crete on Friday to urgently contact his Afghan counterpart.
The Foreign Secretary, however, failed to make the call and it was ‘delegated’ to the duty Foreign Office minister Lord Goldsmith. It was thought the telephone conversation had then taken place the following day.
But in an explosive development last night it emerged the call had never actually taken place. The Foreign Office admitted that as the Afghan regime collapsed, it had proved impossible to rearrange.
The revelation will intensify the pressure on Mr Raab, who yesterday faced a clamour to consider his position and resign.
Dominic Raab’s job was hanging by a thread last night as it emerged the crucial phone call that was delegated to a junior minister never took place
Yesterday, he insisted he would not step down as he broke cover to hold a virtual meeting of G7 leaders. The Foreign Office released pictures of the Foreign Secretary at work and on the phone and said he was working to provide humanitarian assistance and support in Afghanistan.
Afghans who risked their lives by working as translators alongside British soldiers accused the Foreign Secretary of a ‘betrayal’ and warned that his failure to get urgent assistance could cost lives.
Angry Conservative MPs accused Mr Raab for being ‘asleep at the wheel’ and of lacking commitment to the job, with one Tory peer saying he should reflect on his future. Opposition parties meanwhile, said Mr Raab was guilty of a ‘dereliction of duty’ and called for him to be sacked.
Afghan translator Rafi Hottak, who was injured while alongside soldiers in Helmand, was among those to tell of his fury last night, saying: ‘It is a betrayal.
‘The priority should have been British citizens and those Afghans who helped them. They are trapped in chaos now and in the days and hours before the Taliban arrived anything that could have been done should have been done.’
Man of action: A British soldier is seen carrying an Afghan child in Kabul
And one angry Tory MP said: ‘Raab was asleep at the wheel. Backbench MPs are absolutely livid about his ‘not my problem guv’ attitude, as if it was not his responsibility. It has really riled up colleagues. The issue is not that he was on holiday, it is that he seemed to be unaware of what was happening.’
Last night, a leaked United Nations report warned the Taliban were now plotting murderous revenge against those Afghans who had worked with the West. The head of the group providing intelligence to the UN warned the Taliban were carrying out a highly-organised door-to-door hunt for people on their wanted list.
There were also scenes of chaos at Kabul airport where panicked US troops have opened fire to try to restore order. Many translators are trapped in the Afghan capital and cannot make it through the crowds and the Taliban checkpoints to reach an evacuation flight.
In a string of developments last night:
- It was reported the permanent secretaries of the Foreign Office, Home Office and Ministry of Defence are all on holiday;
- Mr Raab faced new claims over his commitment to the role and allegations that he had delayed the setting up of a scheme to bring Afghan translators to the UK last year;
- It was claimed Mr Raab ‘refused to be contacted’ about some government business while he was on holiday
- Some senior Tories warned he was a ‘lacklustre’ Foreign Secretary who is in the ‘wrong job’ and needs to be removed;
- The former British ambassador in Washington Lord Darroch argued Mr Raab should have made the phone call;
- Witnesses told the Mail Mr Raab was playing tennis and lounging on a beach in Crete as the Taliban tore through Kabul;
- The Foreign Office said more than 500 evacuations took place yesterday – apparently falling short of the aim to bring out 1,000 vulnerable people every 24 hours;
- As Kabul airport descended further into anarchy, a British soldier was seen carrying a frightened little girl to safety;
- Fears grew that the evacuation effort was on borrowed time as US President Joe Biden warned his troops would be brought home once all American citizens in Afghanistan are rescued;
- Afghanistan risked a descent into civil war as several people died in violent protests and an armed guerilla resistance formed to fight back against the Taliban;
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that Britain must ‘tool up’ to combat a new terrorism threat in the wake of the Taliban takeover;
- Joe Biden was accused of a ‘bald-faced lie’ after he tried to insist the debacle in Afghanistan was inevitable during an extraordinary interview on American television.
The Mail revealed yesterday that senior officials advised last Friday afternoon that Mr Raab should make immediate contact with Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar as the Taliban advanced on Kabul. The officials said Mr Raab needed to urgently request assistance in rescuing interpreters who worked for the British military. They said it was important the call was made by him personally.
But the Cabinet minister failed to make the call and it was delegated to Lord Goldsmith, the junior minister. However, the Afghan foreign ministry refused to set up a call with someone who was not their minister’s direct counterpart and it was delayed.
Initially, it was thought the call had taken place on Saturday or Sunday as Kabul fell. But last night, the Foreign Office admitted it never took place. A spokesman said: ‘Given the rapidly changing situation it was not possible to arrange a call before the Afghan government collapsed.’
Asked if he was going to resign as Foreign Secretary, Mr Raab yesterday told reporters in Downing Street: ‘No.’ But the Prime Minister was warned the mood was ‘very hostile’ towards Mr Raab on the backbenches.
One party grandee said: ‘He has been lacklustre. He does not fit in the Foreign Office, there needs to be a shake-up.’
Opposition MPs accused him of failing to ‘perform his basic duties’ and argued he is ‘no longer fit’ to represent the country.
And three top Whitehall mandarins are ALL on holiday as crisis grows
Three of the most senior civil servants in the government departments dealing with Afghanistan evacuation are on holiday, it emerged last night.
In the wake of the row over Dominic Raab’s response to the crisis, it emerged that the senior officials at the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence are all away instead of co-ordinating the urgent mission from Whitehall.
The revelation is likely to intensify criticism of the Government’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis amid growing fears over the evacuation of UK nationals and eligible Afghans.
Sir Philip Barton, the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, has reportedly been away on away on annual leave within the UK over the period when the crisis has unfolded. A Foreign Office spokesman did not deny that Sir Philip was on holiday, saying: ‘The permanent secretary has remained closely involved throughout.’
Foreign Office: Sir Philip Barton
Defence Ministry: David Williams
It was reported last night that Sir Philip had been in regular contact with Mr Raab and had been involved in some of the tough decisions taken by their department.
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft and David Williams, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, were also reported to be away. The revelation will raise questions about whether they should have returned to help their departments cope with the challenge of getting Britons and Afghan nationals out of Kabul.
Boris Johnson has paused his holiday until at least next week as he grapples with the fallout from the collapse of the Afghan regime at the hands of the Taliban.
Home Office: Matthew Rycroft
Dominic Raab is under fire as Whitehall sources say he reads as little as 20% of his ministerial briefings
By John Stevens Deputy Political Editor for The Daily Mail
Dominic Raab faced a string of damaging claims about his commitment to the job last night.
Officials accused the embattled Foreign Secretary of ‘appalling negligence’ amid toxic claims about an alleged failure to keep on top of his brief.
In the days leading up to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, he allegedly ‘refused to be contacted’ about some government business while on his Crete holiday.
And Foreign Office officials yesterday told the Mail that his failure to engage as the crisis mounted was indicative of his attitude in recent months.
One insider said for the past year it was like Mr Raab had ‘completely checked out’. ‘How can you be bored of being the British Foreign Secretary?’ they asked. Mr Raab, who as First Secretary of State is Boris Johnson’s deputy, was also accused of not being on top of his ministerial papers.
Dominic Raab faced a string of damaging claims about his commitment to the job last night
Taliban fighters flying their flag drive through the centre of Kabul as they try to maintain security in the capital
HOW A NATION FELL AS DOM HIT THE BEACH
Fri, Aug 6: Zaranj becomes the first Afghan provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in years
Sat, Aug 8: Dominic Raab flies to Crete. The week-long family break includes a stay at the exclusive Amirandes Hotel
Mon, Aug 9: The northern city of Kunduz falls, followed by a string of provincial capitals
Thur, Aug 12: The Taliban take Herat amid signs the Afghan regime is collapsing quickly
Britain announces 600 troops will be deployed to help airlift out British nationals and eligible Afghans from Kabul
Fri, Aug 13: Kandahar and Lashkar Gah fall to Taliban forces; US troops start evacuating American citizens
Officials advise Mr Raab to phone the Afghan foreign minister to urge him to help Afghan interpreters. But he does not do so, and the job is delegated. It later emerges the call never happened
Sat, Aug 14: The Taliban are just miles from Kabul
Sun, Aug 15: Taliban fighters complete their stunning takeover and enter the Afghan capital, while the president flees
The Prime Minister announces Parliament is to be recalled
Hotel guests in Crete later report that Mr Raab spends much of the day under a gazebo
Mon, Aug 16: Mr Raab finally returns to the UK at 1.40am
Desperate translators tell of their struggle to reach the safety of Kabul airport amid increasing fears for their safety
A Whitehall source said that aides working for the Foreign Secretary had complained that he failed to get through his Red Box, which is filled each night with briefings. One claimed that he could read as little as a fifth of the contents, adding: ‘It is appalling negligence.’
However, a source close to Mr Raab yesterday dismissed this as ‘simply untrue’, insisting: ‘The Foreign Secretary has never not finished a Red Box.’
Mr Raab also found himself embroiled in a briefing war last night over whether he had delayed the setting up of a scheme to bring Afghan translators into this country. The Foreign Secretary was accused being responsible for delays in getting it agreed.
A government official told the Mail that while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel were ‘totally on board’ with the plan, the Foreign Secretary was ‘an absolute nightmare’.
‘It was the same familiar story of Dom being uncontactable and saying he wouldn’t look at things for days on end,’ the official claimed. ‘He wouldn’t clear the policy and was stalling.’
However, sources close to Mr Raab last night rejected the criticism and said the delays were caused by his desire for the scheme to cover not just translators, but a much wider list of roles. The scheme was eventually announced in December last year.
Last night, opposition MPs even issued an extraordinary threat to try to dock Mr Raab’s pay.
They threatened to submit a motion on the first day back of Parliament next month calling for Mr Raab’s ministerial pay to be docked if he has not been sacked by then. Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrats’ chief whip who is behind the move, said: ‘If the Prime Minister can’t show leadership on this, then I hope MPs will do his job for him.
‘There is no way Dominic Raab should be in post when Parliament returns. However, if he is, then I believe at the very least his wages should be docked.
‘If you don’t turn up for your job in a national crisis, then how on earth do you expect taxpayers to pay your ministerial wages?
‘In no other job in Britain would you get paid more money for failing to show up.’ She added: ‘Dominic Raab is not fit to represent this country. He has let down interpreters who are now in grave danger as a result of his gross incompetence. British service men and women owe their safety to these interpreters. The Foreign Secretary should have moved heaven and earth to save them.’
As a member of the Cabinet, Mr Raab receives a £67,505 ministerial salary on top of his £81,932 wage as an MP.
Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, after retaking control of Afghanistan
Amid the growing row over his commitment to the job, critics yesterday pointed to previous comments he has made about laziness. In 2012, he co-authored a book that claimed British workers are ‘among the worst idlers in the world’.
‘Too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work,’ said the authors, who also included current Cabinet ministers Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.
In an interview to promote the book, Mr Raab said: ‘People who are coasting – it should be easier to let them go, to give the unemployed a chance. It is a delicate balancing act, but it should be decided in favour of the latter.’ Labour MP Kevin Brennan last night said: ‘Dominic Raab is a hypocrite. How dare he malign British workers like that, especially when he couldn’t be bothered to get off his sun lounger to make a phone call to save people’s lives in Afghanistan.
‘He should resign but if he’s too stubborn, Boris Johnson should sack him.’
Since returning to Britain from his holiday in Crete in the early hours of Monday morning, Mr Raab has argued he deserved a break from his demanding schedule. He said: ‘We didn’t predict that we would be doing this on this scale because of the Taliban takeover. But look, in retrospect of course I wouldn’t have gone on holiday if I had known that would be the case.
‘Equally, after 18 months and two years of a very gruelling, demanding schedule, I think it is right that people in those positions try and take some leave, but we are always ready, I’m always ready, to come back.’
Mr Raab, 47, a lawyer, was first elected as MP for Esher and Walton in 2010.
Working intensely? On his tan, perhaps
By Mario Ledwith in Crete and John Stevens in London for The Daily Mail
Given the Aegean sunshine, five-star beachfront resort, tennis courts and luxury loungers, it would have been a mighty wrench to tear oneself away.
And Dominic Raab didn’t, according to his fellow holidaymakers.
The Foreign Secretary’s claims that he was working intensely through his holiday in Crete have been rubbished by other guests at his hotel.
They say they were left in disbelief as the minister spent hours under a gazebo on Sunday as the Taliban completed its capture of Afghanistan after days of relentless pressure.
Mr Raab was seen swimming in the sea, playing tennis and lounging on a beach as the Taliban tore through Kabul, the guests claim.
The Foreign Secretary’s claims that he was working intensely through his holiday in Crete have been rubbished by other guests at his hotel
The embattled minister has said that he went outside to see his family only ‘episodically’ on the pivotal day, while holding remote meetings from the hotel.
But a witness described this claim as ‘nonsense’, saying they saw Mr Raab spend hours at the Amirandes hotel’s private beach alongside his wife Erika.
A laidback-looking Mr Raab could be seen swimming in the Sea of Crete and playing paddle tennis, they added. The Foreign Secretary, who only two days earlier had failed to make an urgent call regarding evacuations from Afghanistan due to his trip, could occasionally be seen looking at his phone.
Given the Aegean sunshine, five-star beachfront resort, tennis courts and luxury loungers, it would have been a mighty wrench to tear oneself away. And Dominic Raab didn’t, according to his fellow holidaymakers. Pictured: Amirandes Hotel in Crete
Guests at the hotel say they were left in disbelief as the minister spent hours under a gazebo on Sunday as the Taliban completed its capture of Afghanistan after days of relentless pressure
But the witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was not ‘glued to it’. The politician has admitted that he was ‘caught off-guard’ by the Taliban rampage and said that ‘no one saw this coming’.
He told Sky News that he returned to the UK late on Sunday evening ‘as soon as the situation deteriorated and demanded it’.
And he denied spending ‘all day lounging on the beach’ as Kabul fell on Sunday.
But a guest at the hotel yesterday questioned his version of events, saying: ‘He was on the beach for longer than they have made out, for sure.’
They added: ‘He was here when we got here and he was here when we left.’ Several UK holidaymakers spotted Mr Raab on both Saturday and Sunday at the five-star hotel, described as a ‘sparkling boutique resort for the privileged and perceptive’.
Mr Raab was seen swimming in the sea, playing tennis and lounging on a beach as the Taliban tore through Kabul, the guests claim (file photo)
The hotel, said to have been ‘inspired by the palaces of Minoan kings’, has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and upmarket restaurants and boutiques.
Many of its apartments and villas come with their own plunge pools, and cost up to several thousand pounds per night.
After being spotted at the hotel’s buffet on Sunday morning, Mr Raab is claimed to have returned to the beach for hours under a sprawling cabana.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office source said the claims that he spent a long time on the beach on Sunday were ‘wholly inaccurate’.
The source said: ‘On Sunday, before returning to the UK, the Foreign Secretary attended [an emergency meeting], held several meetings with FCDO officials focused on evacuations, and called the Pakistani foreign minister.’
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