Dominic Raab and where to find him

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If you go out into the street and ask a few people who they think Britain’s de-facto Deputy Prime Minister is, most will be unlikely to give you an answer. Some will probably think of Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has by some been described as the “most important minister” in the Johnson Government. Others might think of another, different “Chancellor” — the one of the Exchequer — Rishi Sunak.

Only a select few, I am almost certain, will remember the man who governed the country when the Prime Minister was hospitalised with Covid-19: Dominic Raab. Technically speaking, as the Foreign Secretary and the First Secretary of State, he is the third most important government official. Yet, it seems that many ministers who rank below him — the aforementioned Michael Gove, the Home Secretary Priti Patel and, frankly, even the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps — have significantly higher profiles than he does. Naturally, we must ask ourselves why this is the case.

The issue is that Dominic Raab comes from a different wing of the Tory Party

There are a number of possible reasons for this, arguably the most important of which is the ideological divergence between Raab and his boss, the Prime Minister. Those on the left like to claim that the Johnson Government is somehow “hard-right”, but, as many right-wingers will tell you, this is very arguably not the case. Within the Tory Party, Johnson is seen by many as an unabashed social liberal. He is pro-LGBTQ+, has been known to openly use feminist language, embraces some immigration, and is utterly unwilling to tell you what to do with your life. He also seizes the centre ground when it comes to economic issues, taking an approach to tax-and-spend which is often considered to be to the left of Blair’s, accepting the necessity for climate action despite the costs that come with this, and focussing relentlessly on “levelling up” the North and the Midlands.

The issue here is that Dominic Raab comes from a different wing of the Tory Party. He is known to be sceptical of feminism, less keen than Johnson on immigration, and fairly right-wing on economic issues, favouring lax regulations and low tax rates. Now, it is certainly true that both Johnson and Raab backed Brexit, but they did so for very different reasons: the former political, the latter philosophical — with the Prime Minister famously writing two columns (one in favour of Remain, the other in favour of Leave) before making up his mind on the matter.

It may be that this ideological divergence between Raab and Johnson’s socially liberal, economically-interventionist Government is what makes the Prime Minister’s de-facto deputy an unlikely spokesperson for the Government. Raab seems, arguably, quite happy to abide by collective responsibility by staying silent on points of contention with the Prime Minister — but going on Good Morning Britain to defend the Government’s quasi-Blairite policies would, perhaps, be a step too far for him.

It may be that ideological divergence between Raab and Johnson’s Government is what makes the Prime Minister’s de-facto deputy an unlikely spokesperson for the Government

Another, more simplistic explanation for Raab’s relatively low profile might be that he arguably does not come across as terribly bright — nor particularly charismatic. The things he says — for example, well-known comments about feminists being “obnoxious bigots”— often cause outrage, even amongst members of his own party. Raab could never imitate the charm of the Prime Minister or the confidence of Michael Gove. It is up to the individual to decide which explanation they prefer.

Finally, one might ask: what is Raab’s political future? This is a pertinent question given his high standing within his party. He stood for party leadership in 2019 and failed miserably — many said that he was too right-wing for the Conservative Parliamentary Party then. If that is the case, then he would certainly be anything but electable now that the party is filled with economic interventionists from the so-called “Red Wall”.

For that reason, it seems that there is only one way forward for the First Secretary of State: to serve in the Johnson Government as long as it suits the Prime Minister and retire to the House of Lords when the time comes — from where he will once again be able to decry “the bigotry of feminism” and all the “red tape” in the economy (or, as some of us call it, reasonable protections for employees).

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