Dominic Raab And Nick Robinson Clash In An Excruciating Interview On The Today Programme

"We've talked for seven minutes Mr Raab and you haven't identified a lesson you want to learn."
Nick Robinson put Dominic Raab on the spot on the Today programme
Nick Robinson put Dominic Raab on the spot on the Today programme

Nick Robinson cornered Dominic Raab over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis and the ongoing management of the new Covid variant during a tense interview on Tuesday – and it did not go well.

The interview which aired on BBC Radio 4 Today programme culminated in an awkward exchange, where the justice secretary and deputy prime minister said: “You interrupt me every time I try to give you a full answer.”

The Today host replied: “You’re now nine minutes into the interview Mr Raab, so let’s not complain about the time you’ve been given, you’ve had lots of time.”

“Nick you’ve interrupted me every time,” Raab hit back.

“No I’m not.”

Raab replied: “You’re doing it now!”

Raab, who was foreign secretary when Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell in August, is in hot water after the evacuation of Afghans linked to the UK was described as “chaotic” by a whistleblower.

The insider also claimed that Afghans “were left to die” by the Foreign Office, that Raab was slow at making decisions and that he did not “fully understand the situation”.

Defending himself over these new claims, Raab suggested the evacuation was a success. He said: “Look at the numbers – 15,000 people evacuated in two weeks.”

“That’s not the only test though is it?” Robinson pushed.

“Let me answer all of your charges, Nick.”

The host then pointed out that these allegations did not come from him.

Raab continued and said making decisions on evacuations within a matter of hours was “reasonably swift turnaround”.

He claimed: “With the volume of claims coming in, I make no apology for saying I needed the clear facts for each case presented precisely so that we could make swift decisions.”

Robinson persisted, and pointed out: “There is a gulf isn’t there, between the way you describe and, indeed, see this operation and not this official who was working in it, but Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier [and Tory MP], who is enraged by the way this operation was run and is now carrying out an inquiry.”

He added: “You’re not even accepting that there’s a lot to learn.”

Raab said he was looking to learn from the crisis, but “looking back with hindsight is a luxury of a commentator rather than politicians”.

Robinson pointed out that Tugendhat is not a commentator, but a fellow MP.

He continued: “Politicians are holding an House of Commons inquiry, it isn’t the media that’s holding the inquiry that’s why we’re having this conversation.

“Could we get to the substance of the charge rather than targeting the man rather than the ball?”

The deputy prime minister replied: “Sorry, I would actually suggest it’s the other way around. I’m just answering the plain facts as I see them.”

Raab eventually admitted that with hindsight, there were lessons to be learnt and Robinson replied by asking him what actually went wrong with the operation.

The minister replied: “There are inquiries which will look at that.

“Some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground, the operational pressures.”

Raab faced extensive backlash over his handling of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as he chose to go on holiday just when the militants were gaining control.

Some pundits speculated that he was then demoted to justice secretary as a result in the September reshuffle, but Raab has denied that charge.

The conversation then shifted onto the management of the Covid crisis and the government’s refusal to implement plan B despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.

However, the two were still unable to see eye-to-eye.

Raab attempted to defend the government’s current response to the new infections from the Omicron variant, but Robinson was quick to unravel his arguments.

The deputy prime minister then accused Robinson of interrupting him repeatedly – only for the journalist to reject such a claim, and point out that their nine-minute interview had given him more than enough time to answer his questions.


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