MAIL ON SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE: Rabb defied Number 10 order to cut short holiday and deal with Afghan meltdown TWO DAYS before he finally returned
- Sources said Mr Raab had been told he should return to London immediately
- Claim is strongly denied by friends of Mr Raab who insist he was allowed to stay
- Foreign Secretary has faced a torrent of criticism for staying on holiday
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been plunged into a fresh row over his holiday after sources told the Mail on Sunday that he had refused an order by No.10 to return from the Mediterranean to deal with the Afghanistan crisis.
The sources said Mr Raab had been told by a senior Downing Street official on Friday 13th August that he should return to London immediately as the situation in Kabul deteriorated, and that there had been ‘much gnashing of teeth’ when he delayed his homecoming until the early hours of Monday morning.
The claim is strongly denied by friends of Mr Raab, who insist that he was assured by Boris Johnson that he could stay with his family until the end of the weekend.
The Cabinet Minister has faced a torrent of criticism for staying on holiday as Kabul fell into the extremists’ hands, and for omitting to call the Afghan foreign minister to seek help for translators stranded in the country.
Sources said Mr Raab had been told by a senior Downing Street official on Friday 13th August that he should return to London immediately as the situation in Kabul deteriorated, and that there had been ‘much gnashing of teeth’ when he delayed his homecoming until the early hours of Monday morning
A soldier carries a civilian amid the chaos at Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Saturday, with thousands desperate to flee the country. Four women died in the crush as thousands of people try to get out of Afghanistan on evacuation flights
Desperate Afghans at the barriers at Kabul airport
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it taxis down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul on Monday
US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul yesterday
The saga has led to sniping at Mr Raab from within his own party and calls from Labour for him to resign, although Mr Johnson has said that he ‘absolutely’ has full confidence in his Foreign Secretary.
It has, however, undoubtedly strained relations between No.10 and the FCO.
A source said: ‘There is no doubt that Raab was told to come back on that Friday. There was then a significant amount of surprise when he appeared on the Cobra on the Sunday down the line from Crete. He must have nobbled Boris and asked for permission to finish his holiday’.
Last night, Mr Raab told the Mail on Sunday that he had enjoyed a ‘wave of support’, and denied that there was pressure from within his party to resign.
Mr Raab said: ‘I’ve not heard any of my Conservative colleagues call for me to resign, but I have had a wave of support. There is no doubt that, like all countries, there is a measure of surprise at the rapidity of the Taliban takeover.
‘But as the Foreign Secretary travelling around the world, whether I am on leave or I’m travelling for work purposes, I am always set up to be able to grip things’.
The claim against Mr Raab is strongly denied by his friends, who insist that he was assured by Boris Johnson that he could stay with his family until the end of the weekend
The Cabinet Minister has faced a torrent of criticism for staying on holiday as Kabul fell into the extremists’ hands
Members of the UK Armed Forces taking part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul
A close ally of Mr Raab insisted that No.10 had not ‘ordered’ him to return on the Friday.
The ally said: ‘The suggestion was that he should make plans to come back. They said that if things get worse then he needed to be ready to come back at a moment’s notice. He then talked it through with the PM and it was agreed that he would came back on Sunday’.
The ally strongly denied reports that Mr Raab had spent most of last Sunday on the beach.
‘That is just not true. He based his family on the beach in a gazebo precisely so that he could go back and work at the hotel, while checking in on them every now and again’.
The row has led to speculation that Mr Raab will be moved in the next reshuffle, possibly replacing Robert Buckland as Justice Secretary.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who is eyeing a move to one of the great offices of state, is among those tipped to replace him.
Downing Street declined to comment.