4 June 2019 – OPINION
The backstory behind the 45-year-old son of a Jewish Czech refugee, who now seeks to lead his party and his country, is one that should inspire both big-C and small-C conservatives up and down the land. It is this man and his story who, for me, epitomises everything that good conservatives should stand for.
In his early career, after graduating from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, Dominic Raab qualified as a solicitor and worked at Linklaters in London, working on project finance and competition law (the latter theme of competition becoming a strong one throughout his life). Over the course of his pre-Parliamentary career, Raab was sent out to work in Brussels and Israel, gaining experience of the wider world along the way. In 2000, he joined the Foreign Office, with some of his work there including leading a team at the British Embassy in the Netherlands that was tasked with bringing war criminals to justice. From 2006, he had been working in Parliament serving as Chief of Staff to two former Shadow Ministers in the Conservative Party.
For an MP who has been on the green benches for (only just) less than a decade, entering it at the 2010 General Election, the course of Dominic Raab’s subsequent Parliamentary career has been equally stellar. Indeed, he won The Spectator’s Newcomer of the Year award at their 2011 Parliamentary Awards. He quickly came to the attention of fellow MPs, from both within and outside his own party, for the sheer breadth of issues that he would comment on and contribute to, including ‘positive discrimination’ procedures at the FCO, prisoners’ rights, fairer funding for local services, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the academy schools system and scrapping the unused identity cards scheme introduced by New Labour.
Raab’s opposition to ‘positive discrimination’ should certainly not be seen as disrespectful to women; rather, his first and foremost policy as a Conservative politician has always been to promote and encourage healthy competition in all its forms, and to oppose anything he sees as constraining it. He has always been in favour of a society that is as free, but also as meritocratic, as possible. It is primarily for this reason that I believe Dominic Raab is now the man to unite the Conservative Party and this country: he is a true believer in meritocracy.
Aside from the proven benefits of meritocracy around the globe, we also see here in the UK that this is when the Tory Party is at its most effective, both among voters and with its policies while in Government: when it is seen as a vehicle for all those who wish to work hard and earn their way to the top – or however far they wish to go – it is then that the party, and the country, does well. He wrote an opinion piece on this score in early 2011 for The Sunday Times that makes for very good reading.
But I began by talking about Raab’s personal story. Perhaps, in light of the achievements listed above, we should not expect much different from a man whose father fled Nazi oppression in his own country and arrived here aged six, with no English, and on paper very little to put his name to. But Peter Raab learned to love his new country, grew up, got into grammar school, worked hard and became a food manager at Marks & Spencer, later marrying Dominic’s mother. The refugee who this country had welcomed subsequently raised his son to always remember how tragedy can befall even the best of people – he knew that almost all the rest of his family had been systematically murdered simply for being Jewish – but also to learn the value of working his way up through society by means of hard work.
Tragically, Peter Raab passed away from cancer when Dominic was only 12. His mother is also said to have taken her own life many years later. Mr Raab, then, is no stranger to sorrow or anguish, but nor will he allow tragedy to overcome him. As morbid as it might appear to even mention these horrible events, I am well aware from some themes in my own life, which have not been too dissimilar, that the old maxim of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a very apt one. As a leader, Dominic Raab would bear with him the strength that has evolved from past grief.
Mr Raab has also voiced his firm opposition to the ideologies and policies now governing Corbyn and McDonnell’s Labour Party, including most notably recently. This will be very important for the next Tory leader – a Conservative Prime Minister who is not able to clearly delineate the difference between the Conservatives as a party of meritocratic aspiration, as opposed to the hard-left policies envisaged by the Labour Party at present, would probably not be able to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of No 10 for very long.
Lastly, of course, Mr Raab is a committed Brexiteer whose position on the European Union has always been very clear, ever since he entered Parliament. He is assured of his views, which the next Prime Minister will certainly have to be. While Dominic is among the candidates for this leadership contest who would prefer to get a deal of some sort, he is equally clear that both he, and his country, can live without one. This strikes the right balance for the approach that is needed to take Britain forward now, as it leaves the EU on whatever terms can be agreed, or none at all.
As a footnote: Raab’s popularity locally has always been assured, having secured a very safe majority in his constituency for three elections in a row – an often-overlooked but important consideration for any potential party leader. Back at home in his constituency, the married father-of-two is a fan of action and adrenaline: he is an aficionado of boxing, and holds a black belt in karate. The latter in particular is a sign of grit, determination and never walking away from a challenge – exactly as the next leader of the United Kingdom should be*.
* Candidates without martial arts qualifications can also be equally tough! – Ed.