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By Ben Guerin
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Dominic Raab Created A “Culture Of Fear” By “Belittling” Civil Servants, Sources Say

Dominic Raab has faced a series of bullying allegations in recent weeks (Alamy)

4 min read

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has been accused of creating a “culture of fear” during his initial stint at the top of the Ministry of Justice, according to an ex-civil servant, as the Cabinet Minister faces a string of allegations about aggressive behaviour towards staff.

A former senior official told Civil Service World, a sister publication to PoliticsHome, that Raab was “known as a bully” in the department, and seemingly made a habit of “intimidating and belittling” civil servants.

Ministry of Justice staff said they felt Raab was “gaslighting” them after he told a recent all-staff meeting that he had a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying after being reappointed as Justice Secretary by Rishi Sunak.

More than one civil servant who has worked with Raab has claimed to Civil Service World that he “created a culture of fear”. Another Whitehall source said: “Far too many anecdotes about Raab end with him literally shaking with rage at an official.”

The allegations are the latest in a series relating to the justice secretary’s conduct, following claims that he was "rude and aggressive" towards staff and even once hurled a tomato across a room in a fit of rage. 

Recently appointed Prime Minister Sunak has defended Raab, who is also Deputy Prime Minister. On Monday Sunak told reporters that he was not aware of details of the allegations against him.

“I don’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him,” Sunak said.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson also said that Sunak had "confidence" in Raab, adding that the government “will have integrity, professionalism, and accountability at every level operationally".
Civil Service World has spoken to multiple sources who corroborated claims of Raab appearing to bully and berate staff. 
The sources all agreed Raab had created a “culture of fear” in the department, where he spent a year as justice secretary until former prime minister Liz Truss’s September reshuffle, which saw him out of the role for seven weeks until Sunak brought him back.

A spokesperson for Raab said the Justice Secretary had always had a zero-tolerance attitude to bullying and did not recognise the characterisation sources described to CSW of his behaviour or the environment in any of the departments he has worked in.

While Raab expects officials to have a good understanding of their subject areas and will ask questions about important data points, he does not berate anyone or hit desks, they said. They also denied that he had shaken with rage or used the phrases attributed to him by the senior official.

The ex-senior official said Raab’s behaviour did not appear to be “targeted” at specific people or groups. 

“It wasn't that there was this inner coterie that he was polite to, or even civil to. He would shut down his most trusted adviser in the middle of a meeting and say: ‘Don't talk. I don’t want to hear from you,’” the official said.

They said they and others had “spent all of our time managing” the secretary of state and trying to insulate more junior civil servants from him, and that he would frequently interrupt civil servants who were briefing him and berate them. 

“We just didn't trust that he wasn't going to cut you off after half a sentence and say, ‘I don't want to hear that, I don't want to listen to you,’ which I would never want any of my staff being subjected to.

“Or [he might] ask you for some entirely spurious bits of data, which you felt was asked just to test you – and then he would just keep on asking in front of everyone,” they said.

“He’d say things like, ‘Oh, come on. Why don't you know it?’ And he’d bang the table and say ‘Guys, it's ridiculous, you don't know basic data’”.

The official said they were concerned about “what that culture of fear does to the quality of advice and therefore how the country is served”. 

“It's shit for the civil servants, but this overall culture is even shitter for the country,” they said.

A spokesperson for Raab said: “Dominic has acted with professionalism and integrity in all of his government roles. He has an excellent record of driving positive change in multiple government departments by working well with officials. He holds everyone, and most of all himself, to the high standards that the British people would expect of their government.”

Read the full story on Civil Service World.

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