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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Tory MPs Have "Lots Of Sympathy" For Dominic Raab After Bullying Report Resignation

Dominic Raab (Alamy)

5 min read

Conservative MPs have expressed “lots of sympathy” for Dominic Raab, after the former Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister resigned from Government over bullying allegations.

Raab gave his resignation to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this morning after pledging to do so if an  inquiry into bullying allegations, which has concluded he had behaved in an "intimidating manner" towards civil servants during his time as justice secretary, found against him. 

"I believe it is important to keep my word," Raab wrote in a letter to Sunak.  

The inquiry, led by Adam Tolley KC, was given the green light in November after eight complaints were made about Raab’s dealings with civil servants, dating back to his time as Foreign Secretary and Brexit Secretary. 

Following Raab's resignation, a former Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome they felt "sorry" for him personally. "Prickly and impatient he can be at times, but I've never seen any evidence of maliciousness," they said, adding that there is "lots of sympathy" for Raab among Conservative MPs.

Backbench MP Paul Bristow echoed Raab’s claim that his departure set a “dangerous precedent” for ministers within government. “We are not a serious country anymore, it is a dangerous precedent and I worry about any minister who tells any civil servant what to do,” he told PoliticsHome.

Conservative MP for Mansfield Ben Bradley criticised the civil service and claimed the resignation demonstrates that “unelected people” have control over appointed ministers.

"I agree with what [Raab] said in his letter that if civil servants are able to force people out whenever they want, Ministers will no longer be able to direct departments,” he told PoliticsHome.

“It already feels in many areas of civil society that it's unelected people ruling the roost rather than those who are elected to decide, and perhaps here's another example. In future if you disagree with a Minister just stick a complaint in and get rid of him!"

Conservative MP for Beaconsfield Joy Morrissey believed “bullying” now classed as ministers telling others to “do their job”.

“Sadly, we now live in a country where the definition of bullying includes telling someone to do their job. Where the slightest upset or annoyance is indulged with endless reports and inquiries,” she wrote on Twitter.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner was devastating in her critique of Dominic Raab's behaviour and Rishi Sunak's "weak" response to the new report. 

“Rishi Sunak’s response was appalling as a leader. He is not a leader, he is weak and he should have taken this as a serious allegation that has been upheld by a KC who investigated it," she told LBC Radio.

"He should have been very clear and unequivocal this is unacceptable and he should have gone and he should not have appointed him in the first place."

Shadow Womens and Equalities Minister Anneliese Dodds echoed Rayner's claims on Twitter, asking why the Prime Minister was "too weak to act".

"Dominic Raab was "intimidating" and engaged in "unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct". What did the PM know and why was he too weak to act? While the Tories drown in sleaze, Labour is focussed on tackling the cost of living, cutting crime and fixing our NHS," she posted on Twitter.

In an op-ed in The Telegraph, Raab said “normal rules of evidence and procedural fairness were disapplied”.

Bullying claims have a three-month time limit in an employment tribunal, but allegations from four years ago were being brought forward, according to the former Cabinet minister.

“This precedent sets the playbook for a small number of officials to target ministers, who negotiate robustly on behalf of the country, pursue bold reforms and persevere in holding civil servants to account," he added. 

“If that is now the threshold for bullying in government, it is the people of this country who will pay the price.”

The Prime Minister said he accepted Raab’s resignation with “great sadness,” but expressed dismay at the overall handling of the claims against Raab.

“It is clear that there have been shortcomings in the historic process that have negatively affected everyone involved. We should learn from this how to better handle such matters in future,” Sunak wrote in his letter to Raab.

Civil servants remained steadfast in their criticism of Raab, with one source describing his response to Civil Service World as “the most bullying resignation letter”. Another civil service source added that they were “hugely relieved that the multiple voices have been heard, and that this wasn't another whitewash".

A further civil service source told CSW that Raab could take “Tolley's report as some constructive 360 feedback, as he so clearly feels that the ability to take feedback is important".

A former senior official who worked with Raab described the former justice secretary's letter as gaslighting to the CSW. Another civil servant at the MoJ also told the outlet that they were "appalled" Raab boasted that "only two" charges were upheld. 

An ex-senior official said they "completely disagreed" with Raab's comments that the inquiry will have "a chilling effect" on ministers' ability to do their jobs. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer said that Raab's departure shows "continual weakness of the Prime Minister". 

He was scathing about Raab's defence, and questioned why the former justice secretary "in the middle of a cost of living crisis thinks that anybody wants to hear about his whining about having to resign". 

"In the end, after 13 years it just demonstrates that no matter how many times you change the person at the top, you've essentially got a party that just can't deliver, just can't govern," Starmer added.

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