Rishi Sunak's Judgment Under The Microscope Again As Dominic Raab Allegations Mount

Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak at prime minister's questions last week.
Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak at prime minister's questions last week.

Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak at prime minister's questions last week.

Westminster watchers could be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu.

A week ago, No.10 was clear that Rishi Sunak still had confidence in Gavin Williamson, despite claims he had told a civil servant to “slit your throat” when he was defence secretary.

Within 48 hours, the Cabinet Office minister was gone, telling the PM that he was becoming a “distraction” for the government and had to resign.

This morning, the prime minister’s spokesperson said Sunak maintained confidence in Dominic Raab, who is also facing allegations — which he denies — that he bullied staff in his previous stint as justice secretary.

Asked directly about the accusations while attending the G20 summit in Bali, Sunak said: “I don’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him.”

Worryingly for the PM, Lord McDonald — who worked for Raab when he was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office — today said he was not surprised by the accusations made about him.

Asked by Andrew Marr on LBC radio if recognised the characterisation of Raab as someone who could bully and around whom bullying could happen, he replied: “Yes.”

This is not to say that Raab’s cabinet career is bound to go the same way as Williamson’s.

As things stand, he is safe in his position and clearly enjoys the full support of his boss.

But if more allegations about his behaviour emerge, it will raise further questions about Sunak’s judgment, especially given his much-vaunted commitment to “professionalism, integrity and accountability”.

As well as the Williamson debacle, the PM has also faced criticism for re-appointing Suella Braverman as home secretary just six days after she was forced to resign for breaching the ministerial code.

As luck would have it, Raab will stand in for Sunak at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, where he will face Angela Rayner.

Labour’s deputy leader today called on the PM to make good on his promise to appoint a government ethics watchdog as a matter of urgency.

“Just weeks after he was installed as prime minister there is already an overflowing in-tray of fresh accusations of ministerial misconduct,” she said.

“Rishi Sunak put the Tory Party before the country and cut a series of grubby deals to avoid facing a leadership contest and his cabinet is overflowing with ministers embroiled in misconduct allegations.”

A spokesperson for Raab said: “The deputy prime minister has worked in government for over seven years as a minister or secretary of state across four departments and enjoyed strong working relationships with officials across Whitehall.

“He consistently holds himself to the highest standards of professionalism and has never received nor been made aware of any formal complaint against him.”

But as Sunak prepares for this Thursday’s make-or-break autumn statement, the questions about his political judgment refuse to go away.