Dominic Raab bullying claims to be examined by ‘independent investigator’, says No 10 – UK politics live
Angela Rayner is a more powerful deputy to Keir Starmer than Dominic Raab is to Rishi Sunak (because she was elected, and so she has a mandate, and because her career is still on the up), and in their past encounters at PMQs she normally came out best, but she didn’t today. She felt she had devote half her questions to bullying-gate, but she had not prepared an effective line of attack, and Raab emerged unscathed.
That is because there is nothing more dangerous for an opposition than getting its way. Rayner has issued three press released about the Raab allegations in recent days, and the final one, sent on Monday, concluded with Rayner saying: “An independent investigation into Dominic Raab must urgently be launched.” This morning, about an hour before PMQs (see 10.54am), she got what she wanted. She won. At that point she had three options for PMQs.
First, she could have welcomed the inquiry, and focused on something else. The point about the UK being forecast to come 38th out of 38 in the OECD growth forecasts for next year was a good one (and Rayner’s line, “if there was a world cup for growth, we would not even qualify”, was excellent), but this hit will be forgotten because of the final three questions on Raab.
Second, Rayner could have found a fresh, and viable attack line on bullying-gate. To her credit, Rayner did manage this when she turned her guns on Sunak.
If she had hammered away at this point, it would have worked.
But instead, Rayner devoted much of her final three questions to just clobbering Raab for being a bully, and this is where it went wrong. She insisted he should apologise. And then at one point she even suggested he should just resign. “The deputy prime minister knows his behaviour is unacceptable. So what’s he still doing here?” But if you call for an inquiry into bullying allegations, you should feel obliged to await its outcome before demanding apologies and resignations. Keir Starmer, a stickler for process, would take that view, and it is unlikely that he would have called for Raab’s resignation if he had been taking PMQs today. Rayner pushed it too far, and as a result, Raab emerged with more credit than he may deserve.
Usually the key exchanges provide the most interesting takeaway from PMQs, but the most significant question to Raab today was probably Esther McVey’s. (See 12.37pm.) If Tory MPs like her are already threatening not to vote for any autumn statement tax rises unless various demands are met (in her case, the scrapping of HS2), then Sunak has a mighty party management problem on his hands.