Andrew Marr: Dominic Raab's future hangs on question of what is acceptable in the workplace today

20 April 2023, 18:56 | Updated: 20 April 2023, 19:24

Andrew Marr looks at how the Dominic Raab report highlights evolving workplace culture

By Jenny Medlicott

Andrew Marr contemplates Dominic Raab's future as deputy PM in tonight's show, as he suggests the answer boils down to the larger question of "what is" and "what isn't" acceptable in the workplace today.

In this evening's opening monologue on Tonight with Andrew Marr, Andrew said: "Quite a lot happening today: after a week when warnings about the domination of China have been echoing through the media, we'll be hearing a really sobering message from the Foreign Minister of Taiwan, which both provides the silicon chips on which we base our lives and is also the likely flashpoint for the next War.

"Meanwhile it's been a long hot afternoon at Westminster. The political future of the Deputy Prime Minister is hanging by a thread.

"We still don't know whether Dominic Raab will be forced to resign over a detailed independent report on allegations that he bullied civil servants; or whether Rishi Sunak will decide to hang on to him.

"The report is with the Prime Minister right now. 'So what?', you might very well think, doesn't affect me. I'd like to try to persuade you this evening that this is a little bit more than the classic Westminster bubble story.

"He's a big cheese, Dominic Raab. Secretary of State for exiting the EU, Foreign Secretary, First Secretary, Lord Chancellor, Deputy Prime Minister – both to Boris Johnson and to Sunak.

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"I think it's fair to call him a driven alpha male; his extra-curricular activities include being a black belt in karate rather than, for instance, exhibiting a close interest in flower arranging or chamber music.

"He's a right winger who has in the past accused feminists of being among the most obnoxious of bigots. He's been accused of leaving civil servants in tears, putting them in a position where they have to take time off work and frightening the living daylights out of them. He denies all that.

"One of the more bizarre accusations is that he once threw tomatoes from a salad across a room in a fit of anger. He denies the tomato too. But this is less about the detail, or even Whitehall, than a much wider shift in the culture at work: what's acceptable these days and what isn't?

"Thinking back to when I started as a journalist, an awful lot of what happened in newsrooms, the hurling of metal bins and typewriters - never mind tomatoes -  around the place;  the public humiliation of young people who’d made a mistake; really vicious nicknames and a lot - a lot - of shouting. Well, it just wouldn't be allowed these days.

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"In 2023 by comparison, we tiptoe around one another at work, smirking and nodding politely. That's probably a good thing. But are we completely comfortable in a world where people doing very stressful jobs, like senior politicians, sometimes lose their rag and are exiled as bullies?

"On that basis, I can think of a few eminent, respected former politicians who would be out on their necks – and even more editors across the media.

"So I think this has been a genuinely tricky afternoon for Rishi Sunak. That’s what I imagine he will now be chewing over in the course of the evening and overnight."