An amateur jockey and two Victorias on shortlist to replace Raab

Dominic Raab quizzed on bullying allegations

Dominic Raab’s political career was hanging in the balance last night as Rishi Sunak weighed up the report into allegations of bullying of civil servants in three different departments. But has been told the Prime Minister already has a shortlist prepared of names to replace his troubled Deputy Prime Minister’s in his departmental role as Secretary of State for Justice.

Top of the list is said to be Employment Minister Guy Opperman who had a distinguished career as a lawyer before entering Parliament.

According to sources Mr Opperman has been close to getting a cabinet role for some time and has been seen as highly effectivive as a second rank Minister of State in the Work and Pensions department.

The Hexham MP is also well known for being an amateur jockey with one MP joking that he was the “best bet in the Raab stakes”.

Another said of Mr Opperman: “He would have been in the Cabinet long ago but has always backed the wrong leadership candidate.”

Mr Opperman ran Michael Gove’s campaign with Sir John Hayes in 2019 when Boris Johnson won and also did not back Liz Truss over the summer.

There was speculation that he would get the role when Mr Sunak became leader but Mr Raab was keen to return to a job he had lost after Boris Johnson quit.

A key part of it was looking at reforming the Human Rights Act in the UK and coming up with a Bill of Rights, a task which Mr Raab as Lord Chancellor was equipped to do as a former Foreign Office lawyer.

Mr Opperman is also a human rights specialist and took part in a number of high profile cases as a barrister.

His last case before becoming an MP in 2010 was to represent then Labour education secretary Ed Balls in the High Court.

Sources close to Mr Opperman, who is on the left leaning One Nation wing of the party, say he believes he “is in the frame” but could lose out to a woman.

His main two rivals who many believe Mr Sunak will be picking from are two Victorias – Victoria Prentis, the Attorney General, and Victoria Atkins, the Financial Secretary at the Treasury.

Both have been strong supporters of Mr Sunak and previously discussed as possible names to make the Cabinet.

Ms Prentis is believed to have the edge because of her experience as a lawyer and her role as Attorney General gives her an insight into some of the issues faced at the MoJ.

None of the three would be popular ion the right of the party with Mr Raab seen still as one of the last of the “real Brexiteers” left in the Cabinet.

One MP said: “It looks like a choice of three ex-Remainers from the careerists or left of the party. A bit disappointing.”

But Ms Atkins has at least been seen as robust on crime.

In June 2019, she vetoed the appointment of Niamh Eastwood, the director of a human rights organisation Release, to the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)’s council because he was previouslycritical of the Home Office’s drug policy on social media and had attacked a letter by Ms Atkins in which she opposed the introduction of drug consumption rooms.

She is also understood to be “well liked” by people around Mr Sunak.

The fate of Mr Raab depends on how he decides to act as he reads through the independent report into bullying allegations drawn up by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC, who has been investigating the complaints.

The Prime Minister is said to be “carefully considering” the findings before coming to a decision.

But Mr Raab has insisted he has “always acted professionally” and denies the claims made against him by officials in the ministry of Justice, Foreign Office and Brexit Department.

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