Jacob Rees-Mogg criticises ‘snowflaky’ bullying allegations
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Jacob Rees-Mogg today warned against being “too snowflakey” over bullying allegations as he defended under-pressure Dominic Raab. The Deputy Prime Minister is under investigation by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC with reports at least 24 civil servants are involved in formal complaints against him. Mr Raab denies allegations of bullying.
Rishi Sunak, who sacked Nadhim Zahawi as Tory chairman following a row over his tax affairs, has so far resisted pressure to suspend Mr Raab.
Speaking this morning, Mr Rees-Mogg insisted it is “completely sensible” for Mr Raab to remain as the Prime Minister’s deputy and Justice Secretary while under investigation.
The former Brexit opportunities minister and Commons leader told Sky News: “I think we’ve got to be slightly careful about the bullying allegations.
“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.
“It’s a very difficult line to judge. It’s not a straightforward issue in most cases. 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? And then you have to judge whether that line has been overstepped.”
Mr Rees-Mogg backed then-PM Boris Johnson for keeping Priti Patel on as home secretary despite her being found to have broken the ministerial code over bullying allegations.
It comes as the number of allegations to Mr Raab’s bullying inquiry has reportedly swelled significantly.
At least 24 civil servants, and perhaps more than 30, are involved in formal complaints, The Guardian has reported.
According To the Times, former Foreign Office permanent secretary Lord Simon McDonald has given evidence to Mr Tolley as a witness.
It comes as two former Cabinet ministers have called on Mr Raab to step down amid concerns the ongoing investigation will further damage Mr Sunak’s premiership.
One told the Telegraph: “It just seems to me to be a repeat of the Nadhim Zahawi situation, where it is inevitable that he will be asked to leave the Government.
“So why prolong the pain? I think it would be right for Dominic to stand down.”
A second added: “His position is becoming more and more difficult.
“If the Prime Minister is to show his commitment to integrity, Dominic Raab should go while the case is being investigated. He is another distraction.”
Last week, No 10 insisted the number of formal allegations against Mr Raab remained at eight but could not rule out each complaint including multiple accusers.
Speaking during a Cabinet awayday at his Chequers grace-and-favour retreat, Mr Sunak said he will await the outcome of Mr Tolley’s investigation before taking any action.
Mr Raab last week insisted he is “always mindful of the way I behave”.
He told the BBC: “I’m confident I behaved professionally throughout, and of course the Government takes a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.”
The investigation, launched in Novemebr, centres on when Mr Raab was foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
The scandal is one of a series engulfing senior ministers to hit the Prime Minister, who promised on the steps of Downing Street in October to restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability”.
Shortly after entering No 10, Mr Sunak sparked controversy with his decision to re-appoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced out over a security breach.
In November, Sir Gavin Williamson was forced to quit as a Cabinet Office minister over a series of abusive messages to the chief whip.
And Mr Zahawi was sacked as Tory chair on Sunday following a fortnight of pressure after an ethics inquiry sparked by reports he had paid a penalty to HMRC to settle a multimillion-pound tax claim while chancellor.
Mr Sunak ousted Mr Zahawi on Sunday for a “serious breach” of the ministerial code after receiving the verdict from his independent adviser on ministers’ interests Sir Laurie Magnus.
The Prime Minister yesterday insisted he acted “pretty decisively” by sacking Mr Zahawi over his tax affairs as he vowed to restore “integrity” to politics.
He stressed “integrity is important to me” and promised to take “whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.
The Prime Minister said during a visit to County Durham: “On the basis of those facts I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in Government.
“It relates to things that happened well before I was Prime Minister, so unfortunately I can’t change what happened in the past.
“What I did, as soon as I knew about the situation, was appoint someone independent, looked at it, got the advice and then acted pretty decisively.”
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