There's something about Dominic Raab. You don’t know what it is, I don’t know what it is. All I know is that it exists. My instinct that it is there is strange to explain, perhaps it's similar to the feeling of something staring back at you, when looking into the abyss. Maybe that's a good place to start when trying to describe Dominic Raab - he’s a human abyss.
On the surface, Raab appears to be a textbook 21st century politician, constantly trying to better his peers in the game of appearing unnoteworthy, but not so unnoteworthy as to not appear at all. They do want people to take note of them, just fewer notes than are being taken about any other politician. Failure at mastering this balancing act results in either complete obscurity, and therefore a risk of being voted out, or, sometimes out of desperation, the Boris Johnson method of becoming an almost-complete caricature. But, by observing Raab carry out his duties as Foreign Secretary, more complex, well-hidden layers of his character can be glimpsed through the murky and comprehensive shallows of his unremarkable-ness. We journey further in the abyss.
A defining feature of the common modern politician is the complete lack of vocal charisma, a purely monotonic voice. Raab has mastery over this skill. He is, perhaps, the very embodiment of a Gregorian chant. I imagine when Raab enters his Thames Ditton residency, he recites the drone "Raabius est in domo. Raabius est in domo. Raabius est in domo, est factum". Perhaps Raab employs a form of gill as part of his respiratory system, which allows him to produce a perfectly uniform tone of sound, emanating in all directions from his head, without moving his lips at all. Raab is an incredibly well educated man, with this gill-derived ability to utilise his entire head as a literal mouthpiece, while simultaneously not using his actual mouthpiece, probably being picked up during his time at either Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, or Jesus College, Cambridge. Indeed, perhaps Gregorian chants have more in common with Raab than just the unwavering dullness of his voice. Gregorian chants may appear endless, droning, and constant, but they have meaning. Ancient meaning. No one seems to like them very much. No one seems to be putting the case for them. No one needs to. They don’t command the same loyal fan base as say, football, or the discussion surrounding the correct orientation for the cutting of toast (triangles for me). Yet they're still around, an undeniable fact, with the oldest known Christian plainchant, the Oxyrhynchus hymn, surviving since the third century. Gregorian chants are likely here to stay. Somehow, we've accepted them in our collective subconscious, as if an external force is keeping us from seeing the truth and rising up against the Gregorian chants. We don’t question them. Perhaps Dominic Raab has become one with the drones of Pope Gregory, employing the same external force, adopting the same qualities, and inheriting the same societal acceptance as Gregory's eponymous chants. I shudder to think what might happen to society if Raab, or more extensibly Gregorian chants, were to be taken away from us. Even now, I hear the repeating drone in the back of my mind, a call of submission: "Raabius quod Dominus, Raabius quod Dominus"; Raab is Lord, Raab is Lord. Dominic, of course, derives from the latin word for Lord or ruler, from which we also get the word 'dominate'. Chilling stuff.
Another defining feature of the modern politician is the holistic blandness that pervades nearly all of their other attributes. Indeed, when the young Raab turned up on the doorstep of the Buckinghamshire dojo (Buckinghamshire, that well known hotspot for martial arts, a world leader in the field of competitive karate) where he would, in time, become a karateka, the sensei took but one look at him and judged that Raab's flesh would rank somewhere between completely tasteless and infinitely mild, negating the affect of an arbitrary volume of soya sauce. An obnoxious food critic might taste a morsel of Raab, a wholly nondescript meat, and in a scrambling attempt to sound informed, might utter the word "fascinating". The Japanese community in Buckinghamshire at the time likely appreciated the complexity of this newly discovered foodstuff, and thought of it as a fantastic new material with the novel property of comprising 170% of protein. While they highly valued the unique sensory experience Raab flesh could provide, they also appreciated the rarity of the Raab specimen, so unanimously agreed not to devour him, for both the sake of their own conscience, and the conservation of the Raab species, from which nutritional scientists later developed the protein bar. Raab holds a third degree black belt in karate, and represented the University of Oxford in amateur boxing and captained the university karate team. His flourishment in matial arts was inkeeping with his flourishment in other forms of study, so much so that hushed whispers breeze along Westminster back benches that Dominic Raab is the prodigious lawyer in the House of Commons, not Labour Party leader Sir Keir von Starmer QC.
While the blandness of most politicians may as well be intrinsic, Raab's is not. His is a blandness of sorrow. It's the sorrow of a lost childhood, of a youth perhaps taken before its time. At the age of 12, Raab sadly lost his father, Peter, to cancer. The upheaval of such a tragic event likely caused the young Raab to become an adult overnight, with a lack of charisma being the undesirable by-product of a process that happened too soon. Raab credits sport for restoring his confidence, something that benefited his attitude to school and life in general. In karate, Raab found strong role models, camaraderie, and an ethos of respect. The discipline and focus Raab gained from sport carried over into his professional life. This is quite a sombre notion; that behind the muscles, the hunter-killer facial expressions, the passive intensity, lies the trauma of a young man. Despite his impressive achievements, there is a part of me that feels sorry for Dominic Raab, a part of me that wishes to give him a hug. Far down in the abyss, we find an innocence, a humanity derived from suffering, something relatable. Despite being truly submerged in the Raaby waters, it's certainly detectable, a subtle respite that sets him apart from most other politicians, who generally lack any hallmark of their humanity at all.
Unlike Oliver Dowden (a man with all the physical integrity of sea kelp during a tsunami, who ceases to exist when he’s not being observed - and genuinely struggles to exist even when he is), Dominic Raab has the capacity to dream.
I imagine that Raab dreams of standing opposite Boris Johnson in his office, offering his resignation letter as a cabinet minister. Boris looks up mournfully at Raab.
"Et tu, Dominicus?", he utters. Raab looks down at himself, a brief smile escaping from his mouth. His gaze returns to Boris. Raab slowly leans closer to de Pfeffel, a distinct intent pervading his typical blandness.
"Do fidem", he whispers. Boris recoils, his eyes wide with shock as the words of the Sheldonian and the junior proctor fill his mind. Memories of the beatings suffered at the hands of the pseudo-Mustafa, Stanley Patrick, flash before him.
"A 2:1 in Literae Humaniores? Disgusting!" barked Stanley, spittle spraying everywhere, the words barely making it out of his mouth as he furiously lashed at Boris, his face red. Boris slouches back in his office chair, looking melancholy. "Vox populi, vox dei", Boris sighs.
Raab opens his eyes. He takes a moment, then hurriedly sits up and inspects his knees. Good, they're still there. No one's taken them.