Dominic Raab ‘not an easy man’ but isn’t a bully, says Boris Johnson’s ex-chief of staff

Raab - DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
Raab - DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Dominic Raab is “not an easy man” to work with but is not a bully, Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff has said.

An inquiry is underway into eight formal complaints about Mr Raab’s alleged behaviour towards civil servants and officials across three Government departments.

Lord Udny-Lister, who had the chief of staff role in Mr Johnson’s private office between 2019 and 2021, said the Justice Secretary was “pretty robust” but rejected the idea he had behaved inappropriately in the workplace.

When asked about reports Mr Raab had used the word “bulls--t” in response to a briefing by a senior official - which his spokesman has denied - the peer told LBC: “I’ve heard people use a four-letter word about something… I mean, the frustrations you get are enormous.

“But I have never… I’ve never seen somebody have a go at somebody else, and I’ve also worked with Dominic Raab and I’ve never seen him do that either. Yeah, he’s pretty robust and he’s, I mean, he's not an easy man. He will tell you exactly what he thinks.

“Now, I'm sorry if people don't like that and some people might say that's bullying. I don’t call that bullying. I mean, I’m of an age where you used to express yourself completely, whatever you thought. But I don’t… I’ve not seen bullying.”

It came as Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, insisted Rishi Sunak had acted promptly as soon as formal complaints came to his attention.

Speaking in the Commons, Andrew Gwynne, the Labour MP, claimed there was “one rule for the Deputy Prime Minister and one rule for everyone else” as he referred to tabloid claims Mr Raab’s staff had “felt physically sick and even suicidal as a result of the alleged bullying”.

Mr Dowden replied Mr Sunak took “any complaints of bullying and harassment very seriously” and pointed to his appointment of Adam Tolley KC, a senior employment lawyer,

“But I have to say to [the] honourable members opposite, in the past few sessions they have constantly asked me: ‘when are we going to appoint an independent adviser so we can have a proper process?’

“We have appointed an independent adviser, we have a proper process in respect of this, and then they say let's just perfunctorily sack the person. You can’t have it both ways.”

Downing Street has said Mr Sunak acted as soon as a formal complaint was made about his deputy, although the Prime Minister has declined to say if he was unaware of anything raised informally with him about Mr Raab’s alleged behaviour.

At least 24 civil servants, and perhaps more than 30, are involved in formal complaints, The Guardian has reported.

Mr Raab denies allegations of bullying, telling MPs late last year he would “rebut and refute” these and signalling he will fully cooperate with Mr Tolley’s investigation.

Earlier in the week, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Commons leader, warned against a “snowflakey” response to bullying claims against ministers.

“It’s – how did somebody react? What did somebody say? Is it reasonable to demand from senior and well-paid professionals a level of good service?” Mr Rees-Mogg said.

“And then you have to judge whether that line has been overstepped. But I do worry that we are getting a bit snowflakey about this.”