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I’m no Raab fan, but he’s been stitched up

Raab: abrasive not abusive. Christopher Furlong/Getty

I have no great affection for Dominic Raab, says Matthew Parris in The Times. Only last year, speaking at the Times Law Awards dinner, I compared the pantheon of past justice secretaries, culminating in Raab, with that famous cartoon of the Ascent of Man from ape to homo sapiens, “but in reverse”. And I admit, during Adam Tolley KC’s investigation into whether Raab had bullied colleagues, I was “sneakily looking forward” to the “harpooning” of a figure Tory politics would do well to be rid of. I knew Tolley would be fair, and I assumed his report would be “devastating”.

“But it isn’t. It really isn’t.” In fact, I’m left with a “growing sympathy” for a perfectly intelligent, forceful, “sometimes aggressive” individual for whom “empathy is another planet”, trying to get things done while “fighting the fog” that any minister would admit so often descends. The report specifically distinguishes between “abusive” behaviours – targeted, intended to hurt – from merely “abrasive” ones. Raab’s supposed crimes lie firmly in the latter camp, and Tolley “acquits him altogether” of harassment or “targeting individuals”. If anything, it reads more like a document a PM could use to reprieve a minister rather than for “sentence of execution”. Worst of all, conflating normal-but-tough leadership with “bullying” sets a very dodgy precedent. What great “innovators, warriors, leaders, explorers, disruptors, creative geniuses” will be lost if we decide no behaviour which makes a junior colleague feel “uncomfortable or insecure” can ever be tolerated?