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British politics

Is throwing tomatoes really a sackable offence?

Raab: not exactly Hannibal Lecter. Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing/Getty

I have a confession, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times: “I don’t really understand why Rishi Sunak is supposed to sack Dominic Raab.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the Deputy Prime Minister. He has always seemed to embody one of the “bleakest and dimmest” aspects of politics: “when somebody superficially looks the part they get to play it”. But is he guilty of bullying? The most memorable accusation is that he once angrily threw three cherry tomatoes from a Pret salad into a paper bag. “He could be very icy,” reports one traumatised official. “He’d be given a piece of paper and there would be a silence, and he’d say ‘this isn’t good enough’.” It’s not exactly Hannibal Lecter, is it?

Certainly, Raab seems to be a “nightmare boss”. One unnamed cabinet minister claims “loads of civil servants say he’s an absolute shit”. Staff would apparently “vomit in fear before meetings”, and some were signed off with stress. But none of that necessarily makes him a bully. He sounds more “panicked and flailing”, like Gordon Brown when he was accused of throwing “not tomatoes but phones. And once, if I remember rightly, a printer.” Perhaps Raab is terrible at his job, too – but that’s not really the case being made. Cut through the Westminster froth, and it feels like he’s just a guy who lots of people really don’t like. “Since when was that enough?”