Sunak delays decision on Raab’s fate over bullying claims after getting report
Rishi Sunak has delayed determining the fate of Dominic Raab as Deputy Prime Minister despite promises to “swiftly” consider the findings of an official bullying inquiry.
The Prime Minister received the report into Mr Raab’s behaviour towards junior colleagues on Thursday morning but the PA news agency understands a decision will not be made until Friday at the earliest.
Mr Sunak was accused of “dither and delay” by his political opponents as he put off revealing his conclusion over the fate of his ally after spending hours with the findings.
His previous expression of having “full confidence” in Mr Raab “still stands”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said after the findings of Adam Tolley KC were received at Downing Street.
The spokesman said Mr Sunak was “carefully considering the findings of the report before coming to a judgment”.
But those considerations dragged into Thursday evening, and No 10 could not say whether the report and the Prime Minister’s verdict would even be published on Friday.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “People will be fed up with this dither and delay from Rishi Sunak.
“It feels like almost every week there is an issue with sleaze and scandal where Rishi Sunak is either implicated in himself or too weak to get to grips with it.
“People are crying out for a Government that will just get on with tackling the issues that matter, not focused on saving their own skin.”
The reasons behind the delay were unclear, but a source said Mr Sunak was “taking time to go through the report thoroughly”.
Mr Raab, who has read the Tolley report, has not been in negotiations with Mr Sunak and has not been asked to resign, according to a source close to the Deputy Prime Minister.
He was investigated over eight formal complaints about his behaviour as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
Downing Street had declined throughout the day to indicate when the report will be published but insisted a resolution will be sought “as swiftly as possible”.
While there was no formal role for Mr Sunak’s ethics tsar Sir Laurie Magnus in the investigation, the Prime Minister could consult him before delivering his verdict on Mr Raab – although such conversations are usually kept private.
Sir Laurie had not been appointed as the independent adviser on ministers’ interests when the investigation into Mr Raab was launched.
Mr Sunak is the ultimate arbiter on issues around ministerial conduct and the final decision on his deputy Mr Raab will rest with him.
One person involved in the process described the review as “devastating”, while a senior Government official said Mr Raab is “toast”, according to the Financial Times.
The Guardian said senior Ministry of Justice officials could quit if Mr Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, is cleared of the allegations.
A decision not to sanction him would be “demoralising” for staff in the department, a source told the paper.
Mr Raab has insisted he believes “heart and soul” that he is not a bully and defended his “forthright” approach to his work.
The minister funded his own legal team to defend against the allegations, it emerged on Wednesday.
The declaration in the heavily delayed register of ministerial interests came despite taxpayers footing an estimated £222,000 bill for former prime minister Boris Johnson’s legal fees in the partygate inquiry into whether he lied to MPs.
In the register, Mr Raab’s entry notes read: “The minister has engaged lawyers at his own expense in relation to the investigation being conducted by Adam Tolley KC.”
Mr Tolley was appointed in November to lead the investigation into Mr Raab’s conduct but it is not known when Mr Raab first engaged legal representation.
Mr Raab remained at work on Thursday, responding to Crown Prosecution Service statistics on rape cases.
He issued a tweet and statement on the issue in his role as Justice Secretary.
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