Dominic Raab sacked: Karate blackbelt ex-lawyer who once ran country
21st April 2023

Demise of Dominic Raab: The karate blackbelt and boxing ex-lawyer who clashed with feminists and ran the country when Boris Johnson had Covid before being fired for holidaying while Kabul fell to the Taliban

Dominic Raab resigned as deputy prime minister and justice secretary today for bulling staff – the second time he has been given the boot from a major government role. 

The Brexiteer former lawyer was kicked out by Rishi Sunak after a damning report tore into his treatment of civil servants at the Ministry of Justice. 

The karate black belt, who has cultivated a hardman image in government, was given his marching orders by the Prime Minister.

It comes less than two years after he was sacked as foreign secretary, after failing to cut short a summer holiday while Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. 

It is a major fall from grace for a man who was the de facto prime minister as recently as 2020, when he stood in for the hospitalised Boris Johnson during the Covid pandemic.

The former Foreign Office lawyer’s political career has been dogged by controversy, including over his treatment of staff. 

The father-of-two, who is married to a Brazilian marketing executive called Erika who used to work for Google, has sought to create something of a ‘hard man’ image in Westminster. 

His website once boasted that he ‘holds a black belt 3rd dan in karate and is a former UK Southern Regions champion and British squad member’. 

He captained the karate club at Oxford University where he studied law and was also a boxing blue as a member of the institution’s famous amateur boxing club. 

Mr Raab is clearly proud of his time as a university boxer, having previously handed a picture of him in his shorts and vest to a TV company to use for a profile of him when he ran for the leadership of the party in 2019.

At the time he said he continued to train at a boxing club in Thames Ditton and has a poster of Muhammad Ali in his House of Commons office.

Dominic Raab, pictured with his wife Erika in June 2019 during his Tory leadership run, was first elected as an MP in 2010 

Mr Raab’s bulging muscles and athletic frame leap out of a photo taken during his days as an Oxford University boxing blue in 1995

In 2019 he said he continued to train at a boxing club in Thames Ditton and has a poster of Muhammad Ali in his House of Commons office.

In 2006, when he was appointed chief of staff to fellow Tory David Davis, the former Special Forces reservist said Mr Raab’s karate black belt impressed him more than his two Oxbridge degrees –  the second came in the form of a Masters from Cambridge.   

Mr Raab said karate helped him cope with the premature death of his Jewish father, Peter, who had fled to the UK from Czechoslovakia at the age of six in 1938 to escape the Nazis.

Mr Raab was just 12 when his father died of cancer. ‘Sport helped restore my confidence, and that hugely benefited my attitude to school and life,’ he said.

‘There were strong role models, camaraderie and an ethos of respect. I take the discipline and focus I learnt from sport into my professional life – and I believe that approach is vital to making a success of the Brexit negotiations and delivering a fairer deal from Brussels.’

The Foreign Secretary released pictures during his failed Tory leadership campaign of his Jewish relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust.  

He described how a young Peter Raab had escaped from his home country but the majority of his family were left behind and would later be murdered because of their faith. 

His father learned English, worked for M&S as a food manager and met his mother Jean, who was from Bromley, Kent. 

The First Secretary of State was born in Buckinghamshire, growing up in Gerrards Cross and attending Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, before going to Oxford University.

Despite his karate black belt, Mr Raab was upset when civil servants who worked for him as Brexit Secretary anonymously described him as a bully.

He has been under investigation for months over eight formal complaints about his behaviour as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary. 

Dominic and his sister Judy with their grandmothers at home in Buckinghamshire in the 1980s

A young Dominic Raab, 9, with mother Jean, father Peter and sister Jody. His father died when Raab was 12.

The Tory heavyweight said his father (pictured) was welcomed by a ‘free and tolerant’ Britain

Mr Raab described during the Tory leadership contest (video pictured left) how his father Peter had fled the Nazis in 1938 and came to Britain aged six (right)

He denied claims, made by his former diary secretary, that he insisted on the same Pret a Manger lunch every day.

The ‘Dom Raab special’ apparently consists of a chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, superfruit pot and a vitamin volcano smoothie.    

Westminster was stunned in July 2019 when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister and chose to select Mr Raab, a self-styled Tory ‘tough guy’, as his future stand-in. 

Many were expecting the 46-year-old to be rewarded with a big job after he backed the PM in the Tory leadership contest when his own bid fell flat. 

But few had anticipated Mr Raab being awarded one of the four great offices of state – Foreign Secretary – while even fewer predicted he would be designated Mr Johnson’s deputy as First Secretary of State.

However, the appointment made political sense for the new premier given Mr Raab’s hardline Brexit credentials.

Mr Raab was one of the most vocal supporters of the UK leaving the EU and his appointment to the highest echelons of government reassured Eurosceptic Tory MPs that the PM was not going to go soft on Brussels after winning power. 

Becoming Foreign Secretary represented a massive step up for Mr Raab in terms of government responsibility having only held one Cabinet role prior to his major promotion. 

Mr Raab, first elected as the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, had to wait five years before getting a proper ministerial job. 

And after slowly climbing the Whitehall ladder he finally broke into the Cabinet in July 2018 after receiving the call from Theresa May to be her new Brexit Secretary following the resignation of David Davis. 

However, he would only last until November of the same year as he also quit in protest at the then-PM’s Brexit plans – just like his predecessor.  

Having entered the Tory leadership contest in late May 2019, he was quickly eliminated but swiftly announced he was supporting Mr Johnson’s candidacy. 

He was then subsequently appointed Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State on July 24, 2019. 

However, he spent little more than a year in the job. He was widely pilloried in August 2021 when it emerged he refused to cut short a luxury holiday in Crete while Kabul was taken by the Taliban, sparking a massive airlift of westerners and their allies likened to the fall of Saigon.

A source told the Mail on Sunday he had been told by a senior Downing Street official on Friday August 13 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 was strongly denied by friends of Mr Raab, who insisted that he was assured by Boris Johnson that he could stay with his family until the end of the weekend.

But he was moved to justice the following month and a damning report by MPs later said a fundamental lack of planning and preparation by Mr Raab and senior officials meant the withdrawal from Afghanistan was ‘a disaster and a betrayal of our allies’. They said the incompetence may have cost lives.

While foreign secretary, Mr Raab was soon thrust into handling the Transatlantic fall-out over the death of British teenager Harry Dunn, who was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year.

The fact Mr Dunn’s parents tried to heckle Mr Raab at a constituency hustings event was indicative of how well the family felt he dealt with obtaining justice for their son as the government tried and failed to persuade the US to extradite the teenager’s alleged killer.

Mr Raab also had to manage the thorny issue of repatriating children of British jihadis.   

Early on in his parliamentary career Mr Raab sparked a furious row after he wrote an article in which he argued ‘feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots’.

He refused to apologise and stuck by his comments, defending them last year when he was challenged on them during the Tory leadership battle. 

He said he stood by what he had said because he believed it is ‘really important that in the debate on equality we have a consistency and not double standards and hypocrisy’.

Mr Raab has also said he is ‘probably not’ a feminist, sparking a further backlash. 

He found himself again at the centre of a storm of controversy in May 2017 after claiming that people who use food banks are not typically in poverty but have an occasional ‘cashflow problem’.

Critics labelled the remarks ‘stupid and deeply offensive’. 

He also got into hot water in 2019 after he said he would keep open the option of suspending Parliament in order to prevent MPs blocking Brexit.

His past comments, and his hardline stance on Brexit, have not endeared Mr Raab to his political opponents. 

At the 2019 general election he was relentlessly targeted by the Liberal Democrats in his Surrey constituency and came relatively close to being ousted. 

He had previously held the seat with majorities of more than 20,000 votes but in December 2019 he held on with a majority of just under 3,000 as the Lib Dems surged, capitalising on the pro-Remain vote. 

His seat is a major target for the party at the next election, expected in the autumn of 2024. 

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