Raab’s Departure Raises Serious Questions About Conduct and Culture of Those in Power
In a stunning development on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab resigned from his position following a months-long independent investigation into formal complaints about his behaviour from several civil servants. The investigation found evidence of bullying in two incidents – one during his stint at the foreign office and another when he was at the Ministry of Justice from 2021 to 2022.
Raab’s announcement on Friday came the day after Sunak received the findings into formal complaints that he had been abusive towards staff.
Raab, 49, denied claims he belittled and demeaned his staff and said he “behaved professionally at all times”.
Raab denied belittling and demeaning his staff and said he “behaved professionally at all times.” He complained about employees leaking details of his behaviour to the media and accused the inquiry of setting a dangerous precedent by setting the threshold for bullying too low. Raab’s resignation makes him the third senior minister who has departed over their personal conduct since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak entered Downing Street in October 2022 promising a government of integrity.
In a letter posted on Twitter, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary revealed a report into his behaviour upheld two claims against him.
My resignation statement.👇 pic.twitter.com/DLjBfChlFq— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 21, 2023
It seems Raab’s defence has been to take on the role of victim.
Raab also attacked the process of the investigation, saying there had been “a number of improprieties” – including the “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media” and “the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated private secretaries” from his private office.
The outgoing minister said the report – carried out by independent investigator Adam Tolley KC – showed he had “not once, in four and a half years, sworn or shouted at anyone, let alone thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone, nor intentionally sought to belittle anyone”.
But he also attacked the findings, saying the inquiry had set “the threshold for bullying so low” that it had “set a dangerous precedent”.
“It will encourage spurious complaints against ministers, and have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government – and ultimately the British people,” said Mr Raab.
Although he did not outline the exact complaints that had been upheld, Mr Raab called for ministers to “be able to exercise direct oversight with respect to senior officials over critical negotiations conducted on behalf of the British people” – pointing to Brexit negotiations with Gibraltar where “a senior diplomat breached the mandate agreed by cabinet”.
And he said ministers “must be able to give direct critical feedback on briefings and submissions to senior officials, in order to set the standards and drive the reform the public expect of us”.
He added: “I am genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt, as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought to the Ministry of Justice.
“That is, however, what the public expect of ministers working on their behalf.”
Mr Raab also attacked the process of the investigation, saying there had been “a number of improprieties” – including the “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media” and “the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated private secretaries” from his private office.
He signed off pointing to his loyalty to the PM, writing: “I remain as supportive of you and this government, as when I first introduced you at your campaign leadership launch last July.
“You have proved a great prime minister in very challenging times, and you can count on my support from the backbenchers.”
It’s “no secret” that a culture of animosity between the civil service and government is brewing.
It is “no secret” that a culture of animosity between the civil service and government is brewing, and the resignation of a deputy prime minister over bullying allegations raises serious questions about the conduct and culture of those in power.
The civil service union, the FDA, called for an independent inquiry into ministerial bullying following the findings of the report.
General Secretary Dave Penman said: “This resignation is not a vindication of the current system, it’s a damning indictment of the inadequacy of a process that relies solely on the prime minister of the day to enforce standards.”
Mike Clancy, the boss of another civil service union Prospect, also said there had been “a toxic culture at the top of government for too long with civil servants and public trust paying the price for this chaos”, calling on Mr Sunak to now “clean out the rest of the stables”.
He added: “These issues go to the heart of the anger and distrust many people feel towards the way our country runs. It is time for ministers to step up and to start restoring trust both for civil servants and the good of the country.”
Raab’s Resignation: Third Senior Minister to Depart Over Personal Conduct
Raab’s departure adds to the growing list of senior ministers who have faced scrutiny over allegations of bullying, including Sunak ally Gavin Williamson, who was forced to resign in November 2022, and Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi, who was sacked in January after breaking the ministerial code over his openness about his tax affairs.
Sunak himself is facing his own investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog over whether he properly declared his wife’s shareholding in a childcare company which stands to benefit from new government policy.
Raab’s resignation letter, published on Twitter, stated that he felt “duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry” but that he would remain supportive of the government.
The resignation of a senior minister will undoubtedly cause concern for many and it remains to be seen how the government will respond to this latest crisis.