Tory MPs have come out in defence of Dominic Raab after the deputy prime minister was accused of being “rude” and “aggressive” towards civil servants.
Rishi Sunak is facing further questions over his judgment as allegations emerged about Mr Raab’s behaviour during his previous stint as justice secretary – with staff reportedly offered a “route out” of his department when he was reinstated in October.
Multiple sources have alleged the Cabinet minister created a “culture of fear” in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), according to The Guardian.
But some Tories have come to his defence, with Helen Grant, the MP for Maidstone and The Weald, saying she witnessed a “very decent” minister with “high professional standards” when the pair came into contact during Mr Raab’s tenure as foreign secretary.
Ms Grant, who said she worked with Mr Raab last year in her capacity as the UK special envoy for girls’ global education, insisted the Esher and Walton MP had “zero tolerance for bullying”.
Fellow Conservative MP Eddie Hughes also said he had never seen Mr Raab be rude to anyone during his time in the housing or Brexit departments.
The Walsall North MP tweeted: “When I got my first job as his PPS I was told Dom was demanding. ‘He’s very hard working and expects others to be too’.
“I was delighted. I wanted to work for someone who took their role seriously. We got on great from the start. Never saw him be rude to anyone at MHCLG or DExEU.”
Further allegations about Mr Raab emerged on Friday night, with The Mirror reporting the Justice Secretary has 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 – an allegation branded “rotten” by shadow minister David Lammy.
A spokesman for the Cabinet minister said the salad claim was “nonsense”.
One source alleged the Cabinet Office had been informed of concerns over Mr Raab’s behaviour when he was Brexit secretary, according to ITV News.
But the department said it had “no record of any formal complaints”.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have called for an investigation into the claims.
Insiders insisted the Justice Secretary does not engage in bullying of any kind, acknowledging he is “direct” but adding he rates his team highly.
They rebutted any suggestion he does not behave in a professional manner, adding they do not recognise the “Incinerator” nickname or the idea there has been a high turnover of staff working with him.
The allegations could 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 former chief whip Wendy Morton.
Mr Sunak also faced criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced to quit over a security breach.
The Guardian reported that around 15 staff from the Justice Secretary’s private office were called to a meeting when he returned to his post, where it was acknowledged they may be worried about his conduct.
They were said to have been given the option to move roles, with some reported to be visibly emotional.
Antonia Romeo, the most senior civil servant in the MoJ, is also said to have spoken to Mr Raab on his return to warn him of the need to treat staff professionally and with respect.
The paper said it had spoken to officials who defended Mr Raab’s approach, but acknowledged it could be read as unprofessional or even bullying.
It is understood no formal complaints have been made against him.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner described the accusations as “deeply troubling”, arguing they raise “yet more questions” about Mr Sunak’s judgment.
She also accused the prime minister of failing to “fill the ethical void at the heart of Downing Street” by appointing a new independent adviser on ministers’ interests.
A spokesman for Mr Raab said: “Dominic has high standards, works hard, and expects a lot from his team as well as himself.
“He has worked well with officials to drive the Government’s agenda across Whitehall in multiple government departments and always acts with the utmost professionalism.”
A MoJ spokeswoman said: “There is zero tolerance for bullying across the civil service.
“The deputy prime minister leads a professional department, driving forward major reforms, where civil servants are valued and the level of ambition is high.”
Mr Raab was removed as justice secretary, a role he had held since September 2021, by Liz Truss when she entered No 10, but reinstated by Mr Sunak.