Justice secretary Dominic Raab has said that he will resign from cabinet if a bullying complaint being investigated by the government's independent ethics adviser, Adam Tolley KC, is upheld against him.
Raab has consistently denied allegations that he has bullied civil servants during his first stint as justice secretary, and insisted yesterday that he had “behaved professionally”.
But the senior cabinet minister said he would accept accountability if the investigation does rule against him.
"Of course, if an allegation of bullying is upheld, I would resign," he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
But Raab, who was recently reappointed as justice secretary and as deputy prime minister, also suggested that removing people as a result of complaints would “politicise the process of lodging complaints, because you can effectively, for months on end, remove cabinet members or other leading political figures”.
Speaking later to the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Raab explicitly denied that he was a bully.
He said that it was the responsibility of ministers to take responsibility "in a professional and respectful way" and that ministers and permanent secretaries must “try and make sure that relationship is as effective as possible”.
“My message to the many civil servants I work with every day, you do an incredible job,” Raab added.
Dave Penman, the head of the FDA civil service union, suggested that Raab’s characterisation of working with officials did not chime with what he had heard from members.
“The picture he paints is that everything's fine in the civil service and the relationship between ministers and civil servants is okay – that's not the that's not the picture that civil servants speak of," Penman told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.
“That's not their experience.”
The prime minister has come under pressure to clarify exactly what he knew of allegations against Raab and when. Opposition parties have urged Rish Sunak to suspend his deputy while the investigation is being carried out.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain called for Sunak to "finally show some backbone" and suspend Raab until the investigation had concluded.
"That is what would happen to someone facing such serious allegations in any other workplace. The current position is completely unsustainable, how can crime victims expect justice when the minister responsible is busy trying to clear his own name?" she said.
“Sunak must also come clean about what he knew and when about the bullying allegations against Raab, when he appointed him to cabinet. The longer this drags on, the more it calls into question the prime minister’s judgement and promise to act with integrity.”
Former Brexit secretary Raab was also asked about Sunak's ongoing negotiations to resolve issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol, with speculation that the delayed announcement could now land early this week.
Raab told Sky that officials are hoping for the matter to be resolved in "a matter of days not weeks". Backlash to Sunak's proposed deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol from hardline anti-EU MPs and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party had halted last week's anticipated announcement.
He described the government as being "on the cusp of a deal" but resisted committing to there being a vote in the Commons on the deal.
Raab told the BBC that “MPs will have the opportunity to express themselves on the deal”, echoing Sunak's comments made at Prime Minister's Questions last week when asked by Starmer to confirm whether there would be a vote.
“The reality is the details will be brought forward in the usual way. I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here,” he continued. “Parliament will have its ability to express itself.”
While Labour has agreed to support the government on the issue, there is risk of a significant rebellion from Sunak's detractors in his own party, which could prove politically damaging.
CSW's sister title PoliticsHome reported this weekend that the PM's political nous is in question as a result of his handling of the talks with the DUP, with complaints that the party has felt shut out of the negotiations.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy told Sky News this morning that Labour is "determined to act in the national interests of our country and of Northern Ireland" and that it is likely that any deal Sunak manages to strike "will be an improvement on the Northern Ireland Protocol deal that was struck by Boris Johnson".
He added: "For that reason, we have indicated that we expect to support this deal when it emerges."
Caitlin Doherty is a reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story originally appeared