Dominic Raab resigns as UK deputy PM after bullying allegations
Dominic Raab has resigned as the UK’s deputy prime minister and as justice secretary after months of allegations about bullying behaviour in the Ministry of Justice and other Whitehall departments.
The senior Conservative MP had faced multiple formal complaints over his dealings with civil servants, including claims, first revealed by the Guardian, that he bullied and belittled staff, driving some to tears or causing them to vomit before meetings.
The departure of such a close political ally is a major blow to Rishi Sunak who will face questions over his judgment after allowing Raab to stay in post while an investigation by Adam Tolley KC, a leading employment barrister, was held.
In his resignation letter, Raab said the conclusions of a report into his conduct set a “dangerous precedent” but stressed he wanted to “keep his word” after undertaking to quit if it found against him.
He revealed details of the report, which was passed to Rishi Sunak on Thursday morning, saying “it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me”.
He added those findings were “flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government”.
Raab defended ministers being able to “give direct critical feedback on briefings and submissions … in order to set the standards and drive the reform the public expect of us”.
But he stressed he was “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”.
Raab claimed that Tolley’s report found 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”.
He appeared to criticise the case against him, saying that “in setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent”.
Raab added: “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.”
Raab said he had raised with Sunak “a number of improprieties” about the review into his conduct, including “the systemic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media” in breach of the inquiry rules and civil service code.
He also hit out at the “coercive removal” by a senior official of “dedicated” private office staff last October, adding that both issues should be independently reviewed.
Raab added Sunak could “count on my support from the backbenches”.
Some Tory MPs are privately concerned that Sunak’s handling of the row, in the wake of the Nadhim Zahawi tax affair, would further undermine his pledge to instil “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” of his government as he tries to move on from the Boris Johnson era.
Raab had consistently denied any bullying of civil servants, including some in senior roles, and said he would vigorously contest the formal complaints about his behaviour as justice secretary and, previously, as foreign secretary and Brexit secretary.
Sunak suggested in February that if Tolley concluded that his deputy had fallen short of the standards expected of somebody in his position, he would be sacked. However, the lawyer’s remit was solely to “establish the facts” of Raab’s conduct and it was left to the prime minister to decide whether he should face sanction.
Sunak said at the time: “When I’m presented with conclusive independent findings that someone in my government has not acted with the integrity or standards that I would expect of them, I won’t hesitate to take swift and decisive action.” Raab had also said he would respect the findings of the inquiry.
Dozens of Raab’s own staff were interviewed by Tolley as complainants or witnesses, or submitted written evidence to the inquiry, which was set up by Sunak last November. Tolley also interviewed all three senior civil servants who worked withRaab while he was holding cabinet positions.
Raab’s enforced ministerial departure over claims of bullying is the second since Sunak became prime minister on 25 October. In early November, Gavin Williamson resigned as a Cabinet Office minister after allegations, revealed by the Guardian, that he told a senior civil servant to “slit your throat” while he was defence secretary, and the emergence of abusive messages to a Tory colleague. The Guardian