Dominic Raab 'could bully,' top civil servant tells LBC as Sunak backs under-fire Deputy PM

14 November 2022, 12:56 | Updated: 14 November 2022, 13:00

Simon McDonald refused to deny that he had to speak to Mr Raab about his behaviour
Simon McDonald refused to deny that he had to speak to Mr Raab about his behaviour. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Asher McShane

A former top Foreign Office official has told LBC he believes the characterisation of Dominic Raab as someone who 'could bully' is a plausible one.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, former FCO permanent secretary Simon McDonald also refused to deny that he had to speak to Mr Raab about his behaviour during in the department during Mr Raab’s time as Foreign Secretary.

His comments come after eight people working in his private office claimed to have been bullied or harassed at work, according to a survey from late 2019. Fifteen people said they had witnessed seeing someone else being bullied or treated unfairly.

Listen to the full interview on Tonight with Andrew Marr from 6pm on Global Player

Mr McDonald said: "Dominic Raab is one of the most driven people I ever worked for. He was a tough boss."

"Those sound like euphemisms," said Andrew.

"Maybe they are. I worked closely with him and I didn’t see everything that happened."

"Do you think that the characterisation of Dominic Raab as somebody who could bully and around whom bullying happened is a plausible one?" pressed Andrew.

"Yes," came the response.

Ex-FCDO Chief says it is plausible bullying could have happened around Dominic Raab

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Rishi Sunak came out in defence of Mr Raab today after the Deputy Prime Minister was accused of rude and demeaning behaviour towards civil servants.

The Prime Minister said he did not "recognise that characterisation" of his deputy and denied knowing about any formal complaints against him.

Mr Sunak is facing further questions over his judgment as allegations of bullying emerged from Mr Raab's previous stint as Justice Secretary - with staff reportedly offered a "route out" of his department when he was reinstated in October.

The Prime Minister told reporters travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit: "I don't recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I'm not aware of any formal complaints about him.

"Of course there are established procedures for civil servants if they want to bring to light any issues.

"I'm not aware of any formal complaint about Dominic."

A survey of 20 people working in Mr Raab's private office when he was foreign secretary in 2019 showed that 40% reported personal experience of bullying and harassment - though not necessarily by Mr Raab - and 75% witnessed it, ITV reported on Sunday.

Asked about the leaked results, Mr Sunak said: "My understanding is that these surveys are annual and relate to the overall work environment, not to individuals."

The Guardian previously reported that multiple sources alleged the Cabinet minister created a "culture of fear" in the Ministry of Justice.

The Mirror reported the Justice Secretary had acquired the nickname "The Incinerator" because he "burns through" staff.

The Sun, meanwhile, suggested Mr Raab had once hurled tomatoes from a salad across a room in a fit of anger, a claim a spokesman for the Cabinet minister said was "nonsense".

The allegations will prove troublesome for Mr Sunak, whose choice of Cabinet colleagues has already been called into question.

The Prime Minister came under fire for reappointing Sir Gavin Williamson to his senior team despite being told he was under investigation for allegedly bullying a colleague, claims that caused Sir Gavin to quit.

He also faced criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced to step down over a security breach.