Dominic Raab MP has been selected as the new Brexit secretary after David Davis's resignation. He is, it seems, one of a vanishingly small number of people suitable for the job: pro-Brexit enough to keep Brexiteers happy, but nevertheless willing to be the public face of a negotiating position that Brexiteers believe to be a "turd".
Assuming the government doesn't collapse before I finish writing this sentence (Boris Johnson has literally just resigned as Foreign Secretary), what does his appointment mean for you and I, the average shit-muncher in the street?
The signs are not good. For starters, there's the fact that Raab has the same lunch from Pret every day: "He has the chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, superfruit pot and the vitamin volcano smoothie, every day. He is so weird. It's the Dom Raab Special," said one of his staff members to an undercover Mirror reporter in April, after joking that she would have sex on his desk for £750.
She also revealed that the man who will be leading Britain’s attempts not to be completely ignored by Brusselscrats is a boring man who can't handle working with women: "I'm not his biggest fan," she said. "You have to be very straight with him. He finds it difficult dealing with women. He’s very dismissive. Our team... there are three women and two men, and he struggles with that." This is a guy who once wrote, "Maybe it's time men started burning their briefs," because "we are blind to some of the most flagrant discrimination – against men." The unimaginative lunches make a lot more sense when you realise he's basically an MRA.
But worse than that, he wants to steal your dreams. In 2012, Raab was one of a plucky young cohort of Conservatives MPs dubbed the "new Tory right", who published a book called Britannia Unchained, which is basically about unchaining Britain from the burden of workers' rights in order to "rediscover the lost virtue of hard graft". "Too many people in Britain, we argue, prefer a lie-in to hard work," they wrote, seeming to criticise nearly everyone who isn’t a masochist. You're slumbering happily of a morning and all Dominic Raab sees is an ungrateful, indolent serf.
This was the continuation of a theme. In a 2011 paper for the Centre for Policy Studies, "Escaping the Straight Jacket" – the figurative "Straight Jacket" meaning "not being allowed to treat working people like pack mules" – Raab noted that David Cameron wanted to take some powers back from the EU. "This opportunity should be seized, and used to remove some of the obstacles to British business," wrote Raab. Elsewhere, he gives examples of the kinds of "obstacles" he means. A wet dream for shitty employers everywhere, the paper advocates such bright ideas as excluding start-ups from paying the minimum wage for under-21s, or giving parental leave, and for abolishing the Working Time Regulations which in theory stop you working so much overtime that it damages your health. In the context of continued EU membership, it suggested negotiating exemptions for parental leave and other workers' rights.
In arguing for an end to the retirement age and the promotion of "flexible working for senior employees", AKA never getting to retire, Raab describes George Gibbs, who was happy to get a job as a driver for a plumbing firm at a sprightly 83 – an occurrence rare enough to warrant local newspaper coverage for the plucky Gibbs – as "typical of the growing number of older people in the workforce". Those who don’t fit the hero-worker model are described as "the small minority who do not pull their weight".
He’s got harsher words still for unruly proles with the temerity to challenge the government. In 2014, as public sector workers held a strike against austerity, he suggested banning any strikes that weren't voted for by a majority of the members, including those who didn’t turn out. By that logic, you would also have to cancel Brexit. Maybe Raab is actually in possession of a towering political mind after all.
But more likely, Raab will try to use Brexit to turn Britain into a joyless playground for exploitative employers, taking the minimal chains that constrain bosses and adding them to the hands of exhausted workers who just desperately want some rest. The elderly will have to stay in work until they go senile, unable to have a lie-in even in their dotage. The young will get peanuts to work for unregulated start-up sweat-shops. No sleep. No dreams. No escape.