Dominic Raab vows to 'fight to the death' over bullying claims as Rishi Sunak 'agonises' over decision

20 April 2023, 10:28 | Updated: 21 April 2023, 00:58

A review into bullying allegations made against Dominic Raab began in November
A review into bullying allegations made against Dominic Raab began in November. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Dominic Raab will "fight to the death" for his political future, as Rishi Sunak prepares to make a decision after receiving a report into alleged bullying by the deputy prime minister.

A review into bullying claims was launched by Mr Sunak in November following a series of complaints against Mr Raab by civil servants. Mr Raab has denied all the allegations against him.

LBC's Westminster editor Ben Kentish said on Thursday evening that Mr Sunak's decision on the report would "likely be tomorrow". A spokesperson for No.10 declined to comment.

The report had been widely expected to be published on Thursday after Mr Sunak received it at about 11.30am. The Prime Minister and his deputy had not spoken to each other about the report by Thursday evening.

Allies of Mr Raab, who has paid for his own legal team, told the Telegraph that the fact that Mr Sunak had not made a decision on Thursday suggested the report contained "grey areas".

“He is definitely fighting it," one said. "We knew he was going to fight it. We know he is lawyered up so he will fight it to save his political skin."

Dominic Raab this week
Dominic Raab this week. Picture: Getty

Someone working inside Downing Street said the report was "detailed" and added that "the Prime Minister wants to consider the findings thoroughly." Mr Sunak is "agonising" over what to do, the Times reported.

Disciplinary options short of firing Mr Raab at Mr Sunak's fingertips include making him issue a public apology, taking away his ministerial salary temporarily, or mandating him to take “remedial action” like going to an anger management course.

The Conservatives' opponents were critical of Mr Sunak's "delay".

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner MP accused Rishi Sunak of delaying the publication of the report into bullying allegations against Dominic Raab while he tries to "summon up the guts to sack his own deputy".

She said: "While the Prime Minister dithers and delays, trying to summon up the guts to sack his own deputy, working people are battling the worst cost-of-living crisis for a generation - food bills and mortgage rates are rising, wages are stagnating, and too many of us are waiting months and even years for health treatment.

"While the Tories are yet again mired in chaos, Labour is focused on cutting the cost of living, cutting crime, and cutting waiting lists with our long-term plan to give Britain its future back."

Her fellow Labour frontbencher, shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry, accused Rishi Sunak of lacking the "courage" to sack Mr Raab.

The Labour MP told the PA news agency: "I think it's another example of Conservative chaos and not addressing the problems of the country.

"He's going to spend tonight looking at the report and trying to summon up the courage to work out whether he should sack his deputy or not when really what he should be doing is focusing on a cost-of-living crisis.

"He's got the report, read the report, if he's a bully, sack him."

Asked whether the Prime Minister should take time to consider the findings, Ms Thornberry responded: "A bully is a bully."

And the Liberal Democrats' chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: "It feels like almost every week there is an issue with sleaze and scandal where Rishi Sunak is either implicated in himself or too weak to get to grips with it.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab. Picture: Getty

"People are crying out for a government that will just get on with tackling the issue’s that matter, not focusing on saving their own skin."

A civil servants' union also slammed the government for not publishing the report today.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, tweeted: "Can you imagine being a civil servant who has raised a complaint, sitting in the department that Dominic Raab is the secretary of state for, watching TV to find out your fate?

"This whole process is a farce. We need serious reform of the way ministerial bullying is dealt with."

Downing Street would not indicate on Thursday when the report would be published but insisted a resolution was wanted "as swiftly as possible".

Asked when the findings would be released, the Prime Minister's official spokesperson said: "Obviously, we've always wanted this to be done as swiftly as possible. I think the public would understand that it's right to carefully consider this."

It comes after No10 reiterated Mr Sunak's full confidence in Mr Raab while he considers the report's findings.

"He does have full confidence in the (Deputy) Prime Minister - that still stands. Obviously he is carefully considering the findings of the report," Mr Sunak's spokesperson said.

What allegations does Dominic Raab face?

Ex-civil servant: Impossible PM didn't know about Raab allegations

The review has been led by Adam Tolley KC, a senior employment lawyer, who has been looking into claims Mr Raab bullied and humiliated staff, and was "overly demanding".

The justice secretary has denied the allegations, insisting that he has "behaved professionally at all times".

Mr Raab also said he would resign from his posts as justice secretary and deputy prime minister should an allegation of bullying be upheld.

Eight formal complaints have reportedly been lodged including six from his time at the Ministry of Justice, one at the Foreign Office and from the Brexit department.

In once instance, disgruntled staff at the Ministry of Justice claimed Mr Raab became angry at briefings and plucked three tomatoes from his Pret salad before hurling them into a bag.

A spokesman for Mr Raab dismissed the salad throwing claims as "complete nonsense".

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The complaints about Mr Raab go back as far as 2016 when anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller claims he “launched into an abusive attack” on her.

"I can't make up my mind if you're naive, got too much money or just stupid," she claimed he told her, in an article for the Independent.

Allegations against Dominic Raab date back to 2016
Allegations against Dominic Raab date back to 2016. Picture: Getty

Reports suggest senior officials within the Ministry of Justice are ready to quit if Mr Raab is cleared of the allegations.

One official told the Guardian: "If he stays in the department, senior people will want to walk."

Another told the publication that several senior colleagues would "leave in the near future", rather than quit on the spot.

Those inside the Ministry of Justice believe allegations against their boss will be upheld given the breadth of evidence.