Dominic Raab’s future hangs in the balance after a hotly-anticipated dossier into his alleged bullying behaviour landed on the Prime Minister’s desk this afternoon.
Rishi Sunak has yet to make any comment on Raab’s position but the dossier-in-question won’t have made for a light lunchtime read. Adam Tolley KC’s report is the culmination of a five-month probe into the host of bullying allegations made against the deputy prime minister, relating to his conduct at the Ministry of Justice and the Foreign Office.
No 10 is saying the PM wants time to consider Tolley’s findings, and to sleep on the report before taking a decision. Opinion is mixed on what this means: some political observers say Sunak’s silence is the prelude to Raab being sacked while others say he is being true to character by being ultra-cautious before making what could be a hasty decision.
Raab, a karate black belt, has been accused of belittling and humiliating staff, driving some to tears and causing others to throw up before meetings. He denies any wrongdoing and insists he behaved “professionally at all times”.
According to the Times, one senior civil service source even went so far as to label him a “psychopath”, adding that “the best way to describe him is like an abusive partner.“
After being appointed by Sunak to lead the inquiry in November, Tolley has taken evidence from dozens of officials involved in at least eight formal complaints made against the Justice Secretary, many involving multiple civil servants.
Simon McDonald, a former permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Office, who is understood to have spoken to Raab on several occasions during his tenure about how he treated staff, has also given evidence. Tolley interviewed Raab too, though Raab wasn’t allowed to bring a lawyer with him.
The PM’s afternoon reading session is made trickier still by the fact that Tolley was never asked to deliver a judgement on whether Raab broke the ministerial code or even whether he is guilty of bullying. His report is simply an attempt to establish specific facts about Raab’s behaviour. This means it is Sunak himself who is ultimately left to decide whether or not the behaviour described amounts to bullying – and whether Raab must go.
Tory colleagues defending the deputy PM insist he is not a bully, but simply a hard taskmaster – the implication being that his tough, no-nonsense style doesn’t always ride with snowflakey civil service work culture.
Raab is one of Sunak’s staunchest allies and energetically backed him in his bid to become PM during the first leadership contest, warning – ever so presciently – that Liz Truss’ tax plans amounted to “electoral suicide.”
Firing Raab wouldn’t be an easy task for Sunak, but saving him might not be possible. Indeed, top officials at the Ministry of Justice are said to be prepared to quit if Sunak chooses to stand by his deputy. Letting Raab off the hook could be too politically damaging for the PM to stomach.
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