Why has Rishi Sunak made Dominic Raab his deputy prime minister, secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor?
Here are some suggestions:
Sunak wanted a competent performer to stand in for him at prime minister’s questions and this was the cabinet post that Raab demanded.
The prime minister concluded that Raab, despite being his notional deputy, would never pose a threat to Sunak’s own leadership.
Having decided he needed a broad-based cabinet drawn from different factions of the Conservative party, Sunak needed a lawyer who could keep Suella Braverman in her place and block any future attempts to speak outside her departmental brief.
He thought that the key to economic recovery and winning back Conservative support at the next general election would be to pass a long, obscure and much-derided bill to amend the Human Rights Act 1998 in a way that the government had been advised was largely unnecessary while making no change to the UK’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.
I don’t know whether any of these theories are true — though I have my doubts about the last one.
However, I’m much more confident that Sunak never considered the counter-argument:
The lord chancellor has a unique constitutional relationship with the lord chief justice of England and Wales. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 was designed on the assumption that whoever was appointed to the post would understand the importance of this relationship in maintaining the rule of law. The holder would be decisive rather than dilatory; would take broad policy decisions rather than trying to micromanage; would understand the importance to the economy of the legal profession rather than allowing it to be run down by financial cuts; and would be cooperative rather than confrontational.
By those criteria, Brandon Lewis was doing rather well until he was sacked yesterday.
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I am afraid I have to say that Raab’s appointment as DPM shows that in his instance in any event innate aggressiveness, the enthusiastic sacrificing of the integrity and viability of his own profession as a solicitor and his dereliction of duty over the evacuation of Afghanistan appear to have PAID - or in any event scarcely been held against him AT ALL.
All of that hardly augurs well in the face of Sunak’s “pledges” of a “fresh start”. A smidgeon, even just a hint, of a return to responsible governance would have come as a surprise to me but even those of a less sceptical disposition in truth would surely seek in vain any meaningful change in the malign and illiberal direction of travel.
To be blunt about Raab’s appointment as DPM, it seems very much as though in his instance aggressiveness, his abandonment with relish of the public interest in the intact ness of hos own s