Will Dominic Raab fall on his sword? That’s the chatter in Westminster, though it doesn’t seem particularly to be based on the Justice Secretary’s attitude towards the inquiry into allegations he bullied civil servants. He remains determined to clear his name, and denies the claims made against him. But there is a growing belief among his colleagues that it would be better if Raab stood aside, at least temporarily, while the independent investigation takes place.
An exhibit in favour of this argument was yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, where what Rishi Sunak knew about Raab’s alleged behaviour – and when he knew it – formed a large part of Keir Starmer’s plan of attack. The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of being ‘incurious’ about Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, before switching his sights to Raab, who is clearly seen by the opposition as the next scalp in the endless storm over Tory behaviour. Starmer asked: ‘Is the Prime Minister now also going to claim that he is the only person completely unaware of serious allegations of bullying against the deputy prime minister?’
As I wrote, yesterday marked one of the Prime Minister’s stronger performances at the despatch box. He was certainly much more energetic in his attacks against Labour. But the problem for Sunak is that he continues to offer a commentary on when people told him about serious allegations, often (strangely) much later than everyone else appeared to know.
At PMQs, he insisted that ‘I followed due process and appointed an independent adviser as soon as I was made aware of new information’. Indeed, both he and Starmer seem to have got into the habit of having a weekly weak-off, fighting over who is the feebler figure, like dads at a barbecue vying over their DIY failures while burning the chicken.