Voices: Dominic Raab is a shining example of Tory ‘integrity’

Before Dominic Raab became an MP, he settled an employment dispute with a female colleague, the details of which can’t be revealed because of a confidentiality agreement.

Later, he was demoted from his post as foreign secretary, principally for attempting to organise a mass evacuation of Afghanistan from a sun lounger. This evacuation also involved prioritising pets over people who had risked their lives in service of the United Kingdom. (For legal reasons we must point out that well-known liar Boris Johnson denies this specific allegation, as does Raab, but a parliamentary report on the matter considered that denial carefully and did not believe it.)

Later he would become justice secretary, and oversee an unprecedented mass walkout of all criminal barristers. He was replaced in this job too – and his replacement brought the strike to an end.

All of which is to say it is not immediately clear quite what Rishi Sunak was expecting when he stood outside Downing Street and promised the return of “professional, accountable government with integrity” – then went inside the door, picked up the phone and brought Raab back into government.

But the next thing that happened, when he was reappointed justice secretary, is that 15 members of staff at the department were given the option to leave or move elsewhere to get away from him.

And now, a few weeks on – and an hour before the de facto deputy prime minister stood up to take Prime Minister’s Questions, he published a letter to Sunak confirming that he was under investigation for two bullying allegations. These are understood to involve, but are by no means limited to, the throwing of three salad tomatoes across a room.

The timing, apparently, was a gift for Labour. But it wasn’t really. There can be no doubt that Raab publishing his little letter an hour before PMQs served no purpose at all beyond allowing him to say, throughout, that he couldn’t possibly comment on an ongoing investigation, and he will go on not being able to comment on it right up until the point at which it is “time to move on”.

It’s not exactly screaming “professional”, is it? When people are told they can leave because the old boss is coming back, the first word that springs to mind is not necessarily “integrity.”

It’s not immediately clear what “professional, accountable government with integrity” is meant to look like, beyond the absolute bare minimum that voters have a right to expect. But it probably doesn’t involve one cabinet minister – Gavin Williamson – already having resigned.

Another one, Suella Braverman, is teetering on the brink and highly likely to be out before long. And it probably doesn’t involve the deputy prime minister having to open an investigation into his own past conduct and then take PMQs.

What it very much looks like is politics as usual: the ongoing, neverending rolling farce to which the people have become accustomed, because they have the misfortune of being governed by a party that has rendered itself entirely incapable of anything that looks like normal, sane, acceptable government.

And why does professional, accountable government matter? Why can’t you just carry on like this forever? Well, there is, theoretically, a world in which, for example, a missile kills two people in Poland – a Nato member country – and when this rather important subject makes its way to the House of Commons, discussion of it doesn’t need to occur within the context of precisely what happened with the deputy prime minister’s airborne salad.

Professional accountable government is when you can discuss whether it was fired deliberately, what its intended target might have been and be talking solely about Russian missiles – not Dominic Raab’s lunch.

At one point, Raab was asked, rather bluntly, whether it was true that he had once “entered into an non-disclosure agreement” with a former colleague. He winced, and then explained that it referred to “an employment dispute before I entered the house. There was no NDA but there was a confidentiality clause which was standard at the time”.

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This happened in 2012. It’s a long time ago but, to the best of my recollection, what was “standard at the time” was weeping at Ellie Simmonds and booing George Osborne; not having to go to court to settle an argument with one of your workmates. Confidentiality clauses in employment disputes may well have been standard at the time, but what was mainly standard at the time was just, you know, not going to court at all.

Sunak may have thought himself terribly clever, by using cabinet appointments to piece the shattered Tory party together again. But it didn’t smash because anyone dropped it. It blew itself up. The explosion came from within, and the volcano has not gone dormant.

He must know what the rest of the country worked out a while ago now. That there is only one route to a return to professional, accountable government – and it’s going to be via a general election.