Raab bullying probe: Rees-Mogg slammed for 'snowflake' comments

MP accused of "trivialising bullying" as it is reported perm sec has given evidence to inquiry investigating complaints against Raab
Rees-Mogg dismissed a call to suspend Dominic Raab while the bullying investigation is ongoing. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Alamy Live News

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of downplaying bullying allegations against Dominic Raab by saying “we mustn’t be too snowflakey” about the claims.

Speaking the day after it was reported that a permanent secretary has given evidence to the inquiry into complaints against the justice secretary, the former Cabinet Office minister said bullying claims against ministers were usually “not a straightforward issue”.

Employment barrister Adam Tolley KC is currently investigating a series of complaints about the justice secretary’s behaviour. The complaints followed a slew of reports about the deputy prime minister's behaviour – including claims that he "created a culture of fear" at the MoJ.

But Rees-Mogg told Sky News this morning: “We have to be slightly careful around the bullying allegations but also 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’,” the former government efficiency minister added – echoing comments by Raab, who has said he is “always mindful” of his behaviour but makes “no apologies for having high standards”.

The backbencher was responding to a question about the bullying allegations made against Raab and Gavin Williamson, who resigned as a minister last year after he was accused of having told a civil servant to “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window” during his time as defence secretary.

Rees-Mogg continued: “It’s a very difficult line to judge. It is not a straightforward issue in most cases. It is ‘how did someone 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.

“But I do worry that we are getting a bit snowflakey about this."

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, said the comment was “outrageous”.

“A former leader of the house, trivialising bullying that we know has ruined lives and careers,” he said. “Not only should he be ashamed of himself, but his leader and party should distance themselves from this.”

The Liberal Democrats have today called on the prime minister to suspend Raab while the investigation is conducted. In a letter to Rishi Sunak, chief whip Wendy Chamberlain cited a report in the Guardian saying at least 24 civil servants had complained about his behaviour, which she said was "very concerning".

Responding to her comments, Rees-Mogg said it is “completely sensible" for Raab to stay "fully in post while the investigation takes place and then the prime minister makes a judgement as to whether or not these allegations are serious or not”.

Rees-Mogg’s comments come after BBC News reported that a perm sec has presented evidence to Tolley, who Rishi Sunak appointed to investigate complaints about Raab’s behaviour last year.

The prime minister announced the investigation after civil servants submitted two formal complaints alleging bullying by Raab – one from his time at the Ministry of Justice and one from his previous role as foreign secretary. A number of other complaints have since been submitted.

The Times has reported that the top official who has given evidence is Simon McDonald, who held the top job at the Foreign Office while Raab was its secretary of state.

McDonald told Times Radio last year that staff working for Raab were “scared to go into his office”, and “felt demeaned” by him. He said he hoped the reports would prompt the prime minister and cabinet secretary Simon Case to “look again at bullying complaints procedures for the top of government”.

He also told LBC that Raab had been a “tough boss”, and that he considered it plausible that the minister could bully staff.

Raab has said he has "never tolerated bullying" and that he will "cooperate fully" with the investigation.

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