A week after Williamson’s resignation, Sunak faces yet another bullying scandal

Katie Neame
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Just a week has gone by since Gavin Williamson resigned as a government minister over allegations of bullying, and attention has now turned to the conduct of another key ally of Rishi Sunak: Dominic Raab. It was reported on Friday that civil servants working at the Ministry of Justice were offered “respite or a route out” of the department when Raab was reappointed as Justice Secretary last month due to concerns some staff were still traumatised by his behaviour during his previous time in the role. Multiple sources told The Guardian that Raab had created a “culture of fear” when he first held the position between September 2021 and September 2022. Similar concerns were reportedly raised about Raab’s behaviour at the Foreign Office, with The Guardian revealing on Monday that the then permanent secretary at the department Simon McDonald had spoken to Raab on several occasions about how he treated staff.

On the broadcast round this morning, Lisa Nandy revealed that she had heard rumours about Raab’s conduct at the Foreign Office during her time as Shadow Foreign Secretary, saying it was “something of an open secret” in Westminster and alleging that the behaviour had been “particularly” directed towards women. The Shadow Levelling Up Secretary stressed that the revelations about Raab were just the latest in a series of accusations of bullying by senior members of the government, including Williamson and former Home Secretary Priti Patel. “There seems to be a real rot at the heart of this government,” the Labour frontbencher told viewers.

Labour (and LabourList, for that matter) has repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure “integrity, professionalism and accountability” at every level of his government, given the string of scandals that has emerged during his brief time in office. Sunak’s claim to not have been aware of any “specific concerns” about Williamson’s conduct was quickly shown to be untrue. How long will his current line about Raab – that he does not “recognise” that characterisation of the Justice Secretary – last?

Labour has set up an additional test of the Prime Minister’s pledge to restore integrity. The opposition has tabled a motion today that will see MPs debate whether to censure Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng for their “mismanagement of the economy”. The motion also calls on the former Prime Minister and Chancellor to “waive at least £6,000 of their ministerial severance payments”. Commenting ahead of the debate, Nandy said it was “abhorrent” that Truss and Kwarteng should be able to “crash the economy” and then “pocket a severance payment worth thousands”. She declared that the debate would give the new Prime Minister and other Tory MPs the opportunity to “undo that disgrace”. Though the motion is unlikely to gain the backing of Conservative MPs, it will force them to at least tacitly support the right of their disastrous former leader to receive thousands of pounds in severance payments amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis.

On LabourList this morning, we have a piece from Compass director Neal Lawson, in which he argues that the “spurious and factional dismissal of talent and breadth” in Labour selection processes must stop. He has written an open letter to general secretary David Evans calling on the party to lead “not by control and exclusion but with pluralism and inclusiveness”. We also have an article from Marsha de Cordova on the government’s public order bill. The Labour MP writes: “The measures in this bill are an over-expansion of police powers and are being introduced at a time when trust between the police and the public is already extremely low. They will have a chilling effect on the right to protest, increase criminalisation and entrench disproportionality in the criminal justice system.”

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