Raab hits his nadir defending The Convict – then it all hits the fan

Factor oculto detrás de la crisis inmobiliaria del Reino Unidoou’d have thought ministers would have learned by now not to open their mouths to the media without their lawyers being present. Come to think of it, they might also want to have their lawyers around when they are being briefed by the prime minister on what they are expected to say. Después de todo, lying is second nature to Boris Johnson: he thinks nothing of misinforming friends, family and colleagues as well as the rest of us. All he asks from his cabinet of all the talentless is complete naivety and a willingness to be humiliated over and over again.

On Sunday it had been Therese Coffey’s turn. She had crashed and burned as she tried to remember what it was she was supposed to have forgotten about No 10’s latest version of what The Convict had known about Chris Pincher’s previous. El lunes, it had been children’s minister Will Quince who was trying to forget what nonsense he was supposed to remember. He looked so traumatised by the experience that he was begging to be admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Come Tuesday, it was Dominic Raab’s turn to be the fall guy. If you happen to spot the justice secretary over the next few days, you’d do well to give him a wide berth. By the end of his last interview his anger management issues were out of control. The body count could creep into double figures. He wasn’t just made to look stupid – hell, Dom can generally be relied on to do that all by himself – he was totally eviscerated. Any passing relationship to the truth in what he said was entirely accidental.

In the space of only an hour, Raab had had to pivot from an aggressive denial of any wrongdoing on Johnson’s part – “he hadn’t known anything about anything and anyone who said different was a liar” – to the sullen admission that he didn’t know entirely what was going on. But he was still sure that Pincher was basically a nice guy and he couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

After a tetchy metaphysical spat with ITV’s Susanna Reid over the meaning of guilt (Dom was adamant that just because you’d been convicted of doing something wrong, it didn’t make you guilty; you were just a bit naughty – or unlucky) Raab hit his nadir with the Today programme. Aquí, he tried to claim that Lord McDonald had been factually incorrect in his letter, published minutes earlier, which made it clear that The Rwanda Panda had been informed in person about allegations, that had been upheld, against Pincher in 2019 while he had been a junior minister in the Foreign Office. Where incidentally, Dom, as then foreign secretary, had been his boss.

Entonces, realising no one believed a word he had said, Raab had just mumbled his way through the rest of the interview, while doing his best not to incriminate himself any further. Too little, Demasiado tarde. His credibility was totally shot. He had no answer to why it was he had not made an effort to seek assurances from the prime minister about what he had or had not known. Despite having supposedly spoken to him. It wasn’t the time to point out that no one could rely on Johnson to tell the truth, Entonces, ¿para qué molestarse?

Nor could Dom offer any other intelligent signs of life. Much as he tried, he could not force his synapses to connect. He didn’t know what he didn’t know himself. And he had no explanation for why he had never thought to question Pincher’s appointment as deputy chief whip, despite surely having known about the proven allegations against him. It just hadn’t felt that big a deal, he seemed to imply. Besides, every groper deserved a seventh chance.

En todo caso, if it was OK for The Convict to know nothing, then it must be even more fine for him to know less. And there were so many different incidents in which Pincher had been involved it was asking far too much for any one person to keep track of them all. Umwould that do, he wondered? It wouldn’t. Having a justice secretary who can’t be relied on to ferret out the truth is quite the look for the UK.

That was just the start of the day’s embarrassment and existential despair for the Tories. Later that morning, Labour’s Angela Rayner was granted yet another urgent question on standards in public life. It’s getting to be quite the habit. They seem to come round every week or so. It has also become a ritual that the government’s fourth-rate lawyer, Mike Ellis, is sent out to answer on The Convict’s behalf. Normally, the shameless Mikey takes it in good nature, but he also appeared to have had enough. Surprisingly, resulta, even he has a ridicule threshold.

There was widespread laughter throughout the opposition benches as Ellis gave the most idiotic explanation yet of Johnson’s appointments’ procedure. It was like this. Johnson had been made aware of some allegations against Pincher in 2019 – he declined to mention the ones that Carrie “With Friends Like These etc” Johnson herself might have raised – but he had just unfortunately happened to have forgotten all about them. It was like something out of Little Britain. A sudden outbreak of improbable amnesia. For something of little consequence.

Ellis had started the session totally alone on the front bench. Then a handful of government whips had taken pity on him and arrived to keep him company. They looked surly, impassive and insentient. One potato, two potato, three potato, cuatro. It turned out to be a gruelling hour. It wasn’t just Labour and the SNP who had the knives out. The Tories did too. Even the usually hyper-loyal Caroline Johnson. You get the feeling that most Conservative MPs have decided enough is enough. It just needed one cabinet minister with a spark of imagination to start the stampede for the exits.

Only the ever half-witted Peter Bone offered any support for the government. Surely leaving the EU meant that we were no longer bound by the woke agenda. The way to avoid recession was to carry on groping. Call it Brexit opportunities. Even Ellis raised an eyebrow at that. He just carried on talking about natural justice. As if Pincher had somehow been denied a fair hearing. The oleaginous Ellis slipped out, knowing he would be back before long.

Or maybe not. Despite The Convict making the obligatory phone call to President Zelenskiy, along with some half-hearted shmoozing of MPs in the tea rooms and a feeble TV non-apology, the shit hit the fan shortly after 6pm when Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both resigned in quick succession.

Finalmente, two members of the cabinet had decided they had a reputation worth saving. Remembered they had some integrity. Unlike the others, they weren’t prepared to submissively sit back and be taken ever lower by Johnson. Other junior ministers were sure to follow in the coming days. This might not quite yet be the end. But it was certainly edging closer.

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