This has been quite the week for Dominic Raab. He’s managed to turn the Conservative Central Office “biggest a****hole in the cabinet” stakes from a competitive betting heat into a potential walkover.
His odds first took a tumble with his claim that “no one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust” after his party’s press office’s blatantly misleading attempt to rebrand its Twitter page as “factcheckUK” during Boris Johnson’s ITV debate with Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday.
But he became an odds-on shot only after his spectacularly crass attempts to justify the decision to seek costs from the family of Harry Dunn over bringing legal action against the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) – a move Dunn’s parents made following the FCO’s decision to intervene in the police investigation of the woman suspected of mowing down their son.
A quick recap. Dunn had been riding his motorcycle outside RAF Croughton, which is actually a US Air Force listening post, in August when he was hit and killed by Anne Sacoolas. It is thought that she’d been driving on the wrong side of the road.
The American asserted that she had diplomatic immunity, although questions have since been raised about whether her husband is any sort of diplomat. There’s a reason you’re probably hearing the theme from Ghostbusters in your head at this point given the work that’s done at RAF Croughton. Raab’s FCO duly rang the local police, and that was that. Investigation over. Sacoloas left the country for North Virginia shortly afterwards.
With the help of a crowdfund, Dunn’s family have sought a judicial review of the FCO’s decision here, and with good reason. It raises more questions than the average episode of Mastermind, most of them troubling ones.
There is a clear public interest in bringing clarity to whom diplomatic immunity should apply under the Vienna Convention and in testing the questionable decisions and actions of Raab and the FCO in this case.
Raab, however, asserted that the public interest is in protecting the “taxpayer” from the potential costs incurred through the bereaved family’s action.
The Dunns are the sort of hard-working people (the father is a maintenance engineer, the mother a GP’s receptionist) that the Conservative Party keeps telling us it cares about. Needless to say, they could be bankrupted if the case goes against them.
It’s rich indeed that Raab is suddenly concerned about our money when his government poured £100m down the toilet with its “Get Ready for Brexit” ad campaign ahead of a potential no deal crash out on 31 October which the Benn Act had made illegal.
But the foreign secretary, proving himself to be the cabinet’s Winnie the Pooh but without the benevolence of Christopher Robin’s “bear with very little brain”, then went and spiced up the steaming bowl of hypocrisy he’d vomited up with some unbelievably insensitive comments.
“It pains me because I want to give them the solace of justice in this case,” he declared of the costs move, with the tears of a crocodile visible in the corner of his eye.
“But we also need to protect the taxpayers' money and the legal position that we set out, which is the correct one.”
If you need a reminder of the reliability of this government’s statements with respect to its legal position I’d suggest that you put “Lady Hale” and “proroguing parliament” into Google.
Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the taxpayer’s interest. It’s a threat, pure and simple. It’s Raab and the government saying to a grieving family “shut up and go away or we’ll break you”.
It should pain all of us to be living under a government that is willing to behave in such a manner solely for the purposes of avoiding embarrassment and keeping the Americans sweet.
Raab is apparently facing a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats in his Esher & Walton seat. One would hope that the good people of that constituency will pay close attention to the way their current MP has been conducting himself. They deserve better, as does the family of Harry Dunn. As do we all.
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