British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced new questions Saturday over his choice of senior officials, after his number two was accused of behaving aggressively towards staff.
The controversy over Dominic Raab, who is deputy prime minister and justice secretary, came after fellow Sunak ally Gavin Williamson was forced out of the new government because of alleged bullying.
Raab, Sunak’s most vocal supporter in the summer Conservative leadership race against Liz Truss, was brought back into the cabinet when Truss was forced out as prime minister after just six weeks.
Sunak restored him to his previous role of justice secretary, where he had presided over a “culture of fear”, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Some 15 senior civil servants at the ministry were offered a “route out” to different government jobs if they felt unable to serve under Raab because of his past behavior, it said.
The Sun newspaper meanwhile reported that Raab had once hurled tomatoes from a salad across a room in a fit of anger during a meeting — which a spokesman for the minister said was “nonsense”.
More generally, the spokesman said: “Dominic has high standards, works hard, and expects a lot from his team as well as himself.
“He has worked well with officials to drive the government’s agenda across Whitehall in multiple government departments and always acts with the utmost professionalism.”
Sunak was already under fire for reappointing Williamson to a ministerial role despite being told he was under investigation for allegedly bullying another senior Conservative.
The prime minister also faced criticism for reinstating Suella Braverman as the interior minister just six days after she was forced to quit the Truss cabinet over a security breach.
The opposition Labour party pointed to those controversies as it termed the latest accusations “deeply troubling”, demanding Sunak launch an inquiry.
“With each new scandal and grubby deal, it becomes more obvious that he is a weak leader who puts party management before the national interest,” Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said.
There was no immediate comment from Sunak, who is preparing next week to unveil an emergency economic package after a tax-slashing budget by Truss sparked a financial crisis.