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16 November 2022

Is Dominic Raab in danger?

The parallels with the Gavin Williamson scandal are impossible to ignore.

By Freddie Hayward

Update (16 November): Dominic Raab has written to the prime minister to request an ‘independent investigation’ into the complaints made against him

Another week, another bullying allegation against a senior minister. Pressure is building on Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, over allegations that he was aggressive towards staff during his time at the Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice.

Rishi Sunak has so far stood by Raab but the story won’t go away. Today Simon McDonald, a former top civil servant who worked with Raab at the Foreign Office, told Andrew Marr on LBC that it would be “plausible” to characterise Raab as a bully. That will keep the story alive for at least another day.

The parallels with the saga of Gavin Williamson are inescapable. As it was then, the broader problem for the Prime Minister here is that the steady stream of allegations suggests there’s a strong contingent in the Conservative Party that wants to damage Raab and by extension Sunak. That’s further proof (if you needed any) that the divisions in the party are irreparable. Sunak cannot escape scandal and disunity.

However, that does not mean Raab will have to resign. Williamson’s resignation has already made Sunak look weak. Losing two allies in as many weeks may be too politically damaging for Sunak to stomach. Much depends on whether more allegations emerge.

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Away from Westminster, there’s the perennial question over whether these scandals reach the public consciousness. The police investigation into Boris Johnson breaking Covid rules may have dominated the agenda for months, but that does not mean Williamson’s aggressive texts or the claims against Raab will make such an impact. A poll from Redfield and Wilton carried out on 9-10 November found that 61 per cent of people had heard about the bullying allegations against Williamson. It is not yet clear whether the claims against Raab will reach as many people. At the very least, these recurrent scandals won’t do anything alter the perception that the Conservative Party has a troubled relationship with integrity.

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[See also: How will Labour respond to Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement?]