@RColvile on the Dominic Raab Political Melodrama.

American Writer comments.

Being an American Hick, I can only think that Robert Colvile’s essays on British Politics, reminds me of those BBC adaptations of Anthony Trollope’s Pallisers Novels. Though I read a part of ‘Vivian Grey’, until he left England for the Continent, and his encounter with Marquess of Carabas. I later read with profit Benjamin Disraeli: The Novel as Political Discourse by Michael Flavin and The Silver Fork Novel Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform by Edward Copeland

Such is Mr. Colvile’s attempts at political reconstructions, he brings a novelists mentality, that makes way for even what might be considered gossip, for the politics of the British Present, for example this paragraph:

For George Osborne, it was Cornish pasties. For Dominic Raab, it is Pret A Manger. Back in 2018, the then housing minister’s diary secretary was caught advertising on a website for “sugar daddies”. But what transfixed Westminster was her revelation that her boss always ordered the same lunch: a chicken and bacon baguette, superfruit pot and vitamin volcano smoothie. More recently, it was Pret tomatoes that the justice secretary was accused of hurling in a “fit of rage”.

Mr. Colvile offers more of this political gossip, he strays into the territory of the tabloid:

Now, the man some of his colleagues duly nicknamed “The Vitamin Volcano” is out, but not without one last eruption. The deputy prime minister’s resignation letter made it clear that he was going with the most intense reluctance. It was accompanied by a lengthy column in The Daily Telegraph, in which he robustly defended his record and complained of “trial by media for six months, fuelled by warped and fabricated accounts leaked by anonymous officials”, talked about “informal tip-offs . . . that unionised officials were targeting me and other ministers” and complained of enduring a “Kafkaesque saga . . . shorn of the safeguards most people enjoy”.

The quick appearance of Rishi Sunak is introductory to public moralizing:

For many people, this will come across as intensely hypocritical. A bullying politician has been found out, and received his comeuppance. Spare the pity for the people who had to put up with him. But it’s not as simple as that — although it would be a lot easier for the government if it were.

Enter Adam Tolley KC

Reading through the report by Adam Tolley KC, it is clear that Raab is a driven and often abrasive character. Two of his permanent secretaries took him aside to ask him to treat staff better — awkwardly, he disputed both accounts, although Tolley found firmly for the officials. There were definitely people who felt emotionally bruised and battered after having to deal with him.

Mr. Colvile explores the ‘Rabb Managerial Style’ that is 763 words: a pastiche of the novelist’s of character analysis? I’ll take the liberty of quoting portions of this part of the essay:

But equally, the picture that emerges is not quite the tomato-throwing tyrant of the media allegations.

When Raab expressed his frustration, it seems to have been over bad work rather than bad people. Some people found being upbraided “humiliating and upsetting”.

But Tolley finds against the original collective complaint from within the Ministry of Justice that Raab had created a “perverse culture of fear” (though he praises the complainants for having the courage to come forward).

When Raab expressed his frustration, it seems to have been over bad work rather than bad people.

At the heart of this, in other words, is a gap between what was meant and what was felt. Raab saw himself as enforcing high standards, in pursuit of urgent national priorities — for example, in negotiating the fate of Gibraltar post-Brexit, or trying to push through the Ministry of Justice’s “cultural resistance”.

Some will feel that politicians should be held to a higher standard; others that the threshold for dismissing the deputy prime minister should be more categorical, or that there should be a halfway house between innocence and dismissal, as there would be in any other workplace.

 But as mentioned above, he is not going quietly. Raab and those around him insist that the complaints were part of a co-ordinated campaign, spearheaded by a few determined people rather than representing the collective verdict of the department.

 There is already a conviction in the Tory party that the state is not working as it should. Some whisper darkly of a Remain-voting “blob” determined to frustrate their efforts.

The final paragraphs of Mr. Colvile’s essay, as a would be ‘political novelist’ of the present, looks like what he is, in actuality, a Tory Loyalist Technocratic, in its British Newspaper.

Of course, there are many ministers, including Dominic Raab, who praise the calibre and dedication of officials they work with. But it is hard to avoid the sense that something within the relationship has curdled.

The other week, a new group called the Effective Governance Forum published a report on Whitehall. Among its criticisms was that ministers control vast organisations with little management experience at sufficient scale, in uneasy coalition with the permanent secretary who actually runs the department. The Raab controversy is likely to make those relationships just that little bit harder to manage — and the government’s priorities that bit harder to deliver. 


American Writer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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