Robert Buckland has confirmed that he and Dominic Raab had “a disagreement” when they were both in cabinet, after it was reported Raab tried to get Buckland sacked as Welsh secretary last year amid a fallout over policy.
An unnamed ally of Buckland told the Times that while the former minister did not view Raab’s actions as bullying, Raab’s approach after Buckland publicly criticised plans for a British bill of rights was “very odd, very punchy”.
Another source told the paper Buckland told Rishi Sunak about the incident, which took place in August amid the final weeks of Boris Johnson’s government, meaning Sunak knew about Raab’s abrasive manner before appointing him to his own government.
Questioned on LBC on Monday morning about the report, Buckland did not deny that Raab had told him he would have to be sacked or resign if an article he wrote criticising the bill of rights was published as it breached collective cabinet responsibility.
“I don’t want to rake back through the coals of what happened last summer,” said Buckland, who stayed on as Welsh secretary in Liz Truss’s brief government but is now a backbench MP.
“Dominic and I have a disagreement about his bill of rights, clearly he wasn’t going to agree with the article that I did write in the Telegraph. I was talking about the government to come – that is the government post-Boris Johnson – and felt that it was entirely appropriate to do that.
“There are robust disagreements in politics. I’m old enough and ugly enough to hold my own corner, and Dominic is known for his robustness as well. There was a disagreement, but we’ve moved on.”
Raab’s position as deputy prime minister and justice secretary is in jeopardy following allegations of bullying and intimidating behaviour from at least 24 officials, which he vehemently denied. The claims are being investigated by a leading employment barrister, Adam Tolley, who was appointed by Sunak in November.
According to the Times, Buckland told Sunak in August about Raab’s behaviour over the bill of rights, a plan to override the European court of human rights. A source close to the prime minister said this was untrue.
The unnamed ally told the paper Raab had phoned Buckland about the proposed article, saying he would formally report him to Downing Street if it was published.
“He was very cross about it,” the ally said. “The fact that he was prepared to report it to the prime minister and cabinet secretary shows the lengths he’d go to make his point. Robert isn’t a blushing flower, he’s a tough politician, but Dom’s behaviour was very odd, very punchy.
“It shows he’ll do whatever it takes to get his way and to ensure his threats are carried out. It’s very heavy-handed tactics.”
After the article was published, Buckland’s private office in the Wales Office was contacted by the Cabinet Office following a complaint from Raab, the Times added.
It said Buckland told Raab that his “threatening” behaviour was “unacceptable”, and that the incident prompted Buckland to move his support in the leadership contest to replace Johnson from Sunak, for whom Raab was a key backer, to Truss.
A source close to Raab told the Times he had always acted professionally.