Judgement Day: Raab report lands on Prime Minister’s desk
This morning, Rishi Sunak received the long-awaited report on bullying claims against Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab MP.
Raab has been under investigation since November after Rishi Sunak appointed Adam Tolley KC, a senior employment lawyer, to examine eight accusations against Raab. The report’s scope spans more than just Raab’s time at the MoJ, with his time as Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State at the now-disbanded Department for Exiting the European Union also being considered.
The long-running investigation into Raab has been high profile. For months, various allegations have appeared in the media, including the now infamous salad throwing, along with more serious reports that Raab left civil servants in tears and feeling “demoralised” and “worthless.” Many commentators and even some Conservative MPs have suggested that the scale and publicity surrounding the accusations against Raab make it almost impossible for him to continue in his role.
Raab, for his part, has always denied the allegations, saying he has “behaved professionally at all times” and that “if any allegation is upheld, I would resign.”
However, this is where this report gets complicated and is not clear-cut. For example, when Sunak sacked former Cabinet member Nadhim Zahwai, it was because he was found to have breached the ministerial code and therefore had to go. It was a simple case of right and wrong. This report will not provide the Prime Minister with a definitive yes or no as to whether Raab has breached the ministerial code; instead, it is for the PM to decide if he believes that Raab’s actions account to behaviour that does match the standards required for public office.
This decision will not be an easy one for Sunak. Raab is Sunak’s trusted Lieutenant and long-term ally. Sunak brought Raab back in from the cold when he became PM in October, and Raab campaigned loyally for Sunak during last summer’s leadership election. Raab is not someone Sunak wants to lose.
Nevertheless, after six months of steadying the ship and narrowing the polls, is it wise for Sunak to create a political issue out of the report? Especially when it emerged this week that Sunak himself had been referred to the Parliamentary Standards Commission over a potential breach of transparency rules relating to his links to a childcare firm in which his wife is an investor. It is also the third propriety investigation into Sunak, and deciding to back Raab opens the government up to attacks that sleaze has returned to No 10, something the PM said in his maiden address to the nation he was desperate to stamp out, promising to be a Prime Minister of “integrity and accountability.”
So ultimately, the PM has a tough decision to make.
Raab’s future remains firmly in the balance at the time of writing. Downing Street has said the PM will carefully consider the report’s findings before coming to a judgement. Still, No 10 will not want this story to rumble on, so expect an announcement sometime in the not-too-distant future.