A former senior civil servant who worked closely with Dominic Raab has described his behaviour as “nasty and difficult”.
In an anonymous interview with BBC Newsnight, he accuses the deputy prime minister and justice secretary of using “demeaning tactics to make himself the most powerful person in the room”.
Mr Raab is being investigated by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC over claims of bullying.
He has vehemently denied the allegations against him, and has said he has never sworn or shouted in a meeting.
He is now the subject of eight formal complaints.
The FDA trade union, which represents civil servants, has said it understands dozens of people are involved in those complaints. These span several years and a number of government departments.
The former civil servant – who has not made a formal complaint against Mr Raab – told the BBC, “I saw him seething at other senior people, hard staring at you, you know like cold fury.
“It was pretty sinister – and raising his voice. He would make examples of very senior members of staff in front of more junior members and vice versa.”
When challenged on whether this was bullying or just a secretary of state being direct and assertive while doing an important job, the person said they had no doubt it was “unacceptable behaviour”.
“No, it’s bullying. I mean, the worst thing is the sort of the cold anger and making people wait in silence.
“Expecting people to turn up very, very quickly without knowing really why they’re there. Treating his private office with contempt and doing so publicly.
“There were long silences, which if you tried to continue speaking he would tell you to wait or stop talking.
“And he would expect everyone to have the answers to all his questions even when he wanted information on topics outside of the knowledge of the people in the room. He would get cross with his private office on these occasions for not ensuring all the right people were in the room”, he said.
But supporters of the deputy prime minister call these allegations “nonsense”.
The BBC has spoken to several people at Westminster who don’t recognise this characterisation, and believe he has always behaved with professionalism and integrity, and does not tolerate bullying.
In November last year, Conservative MP Helen Grant, who worked with Mr Raab when he was foreign secretary, tweeted: “I witnessed a very decent, hard working minister with high professional standards and a solid work ethic. Dominic has zero tolerance for bullying.”
Earlier this month, another Conservative MP, James Daly, told the Sunday Telegraph: “During the time I have worked with Dominic Raab, he has always been kind, courteous and utterly professional”.
One former senior civil servant, who worked with Mr Raab, said: “He was very professional to me.” He described Mr Raab as “incredibly hard working” and “very demanding”.
“Being on the end of his expectations wouldn’t be nice if you’re not prepared for it. It’s tough. There’s perfectionism there,” he added.
“He had a view how he wanted things done. He expected delivery but doesn’t understand how to get it done.”
‘Tried to change’
But the former civil servant who spoke to Newsnight said Mr Raab is not suitable to work in policy-making.
“I am concerned that he is not fit to run a department – not least because his behaviour has an impact on, for example in the MoJ, on the quality of operational delivery of our prisons, our probation service and our courts as well as on the quality of policy development and legislation.
“All of which has real-life consequences for the public.
“I think he behaved like a monster at times”, he said.
There have been claims from people close to Mr Raab that some civil servants are trying to force him out – something his former colleague strongly rejects.
He said Mr Raab was not physically intimidating but was “somebody who didn’t make you feel safe in the room”.
“He would cut people short, telling people to stop talking. If he didn’t like what someone was saying he would tell them to stop and then turn to another person and say ‘I don’t understand a word of what x is saying, can you explain this?’, our source added.
They had heard that Mr Raab had “apparently tried to change” his behaviour towards colleagues at the MoJ since the allegations broke in the media, but “that’s not enough for the big handful of people who have been part of complaining” to Adam Tolley KC.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said: “There is zero tolerance for bullying across the civil service.
“The deputy prime minister leads a professional department, driving forward major reforms, where civil servants are valued and the level of ambition is high.
“There is an independent investigation under way and it would be inappropriate to comment further on issues relating to it until it is completed.”
Asked about the bullying claims in relation to Mr Raab, former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously said: “We mustn’t be too snowflakey about it. People need to be able to say this job has not been done well enough and needs to be done better.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, before the latest claims, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would not pre-judge the findings of the investigation into Mr Raab’s conduct.
But he added: “As people have seen from how I’ve acted in the past when I am presented with conclusive independent findings that someone in my government has not acted with the integrity or standards I would expect, I won’t hesitate to take swift and decisive action.”
Mr Raab’s former colleague was interviewed anonymously to protect his identity.
Source : BBC