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Dominic Raab Has Resigned Following Bullying Allegations

Dominic Raab pictured on Downing Street earlier this week (Alamy)

5 min read

Dominic Raab has resigned from government in response to a report into his behaviour following allegations of bullying by civil service staff.

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this morning, the now former deputy prime minister and justice secretary Raab said: "I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever. I believe it is important to keep my word." 

The report, by lawyer Adam Tolley KC, was commissioned last November as eight formal complaints were made about Raab’s interactions with civil servants, dating back to his time as foreign secretary and Brexit secretary. 

Raab appeared to distance himself from the findings of the report. "While I feel duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me," he wrote. 

Raab said he believed that the findings of the report were "flawed", and that "in setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has 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," he added.   

In a letter accepting Raab's resignation letter Sunak expressed "great sadness" in doing so, and suggested there had been "shortcomings" in the process. 

"You had rightly undertaken to resign if the report made any finding of bullying whatsoever," Sunak said. 

"But 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." 

Later in the morning, Raab published a more detailed response in the Daily Telegraph in which he described the investigation as a "Kafkaesque saga" and further dismissed its findings. 

He said that the two claims the report did not dismiss related to his time as foreign secretary when he replaced a lead negotiator and justice secretary when he "had left senior officials feeling insulted on three occasions because of direct feedback." 

Raab wrote in the newspaper: "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.

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

Raab had previously said that he would “resign” if an allegation of bullying was “upheld” but had consistently denied the allegations. In February he told The Telegraph that he was “confident” he had “behaved professionally.”

"Of course, if an allegation of bullying is upheld, I would resign," he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme earlier this year. 

Conservative MP Paul Bristow signalled his support for Raab, and said the outcome of the report demonstrated that "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.  

Civil servants told PoliticsHome sister publication Civil Service World they are relieved by Raab's resignation, but also insulted at his implication that a senior official coercively removed his private office staff.

They also dismissed his suggestion that "only" two incidents being upheld is insignificant. 

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.

Starmer's deputy Angela Rayner agreed that Sunak was "too weak" and had shown "appalling judgement" by appointing Raab in the first place. 

"Rather than showing leadership, the Prime Minister has proven himself too weak to give Dominic Raab his marching orders. He's failed to root out bullying from his own Cabinet and he's failing to deliver the integrity he promised," she said.

Shadow justice minister Ellie Reeves said that Raab's resignation letter showed "no self-awareness" and "no actual apology". 

"That he was allowed to lead our justice system for so long is an insult," she tweeted.

While Raab remains an MP with the Conservative whip, following his resignation from Cabinet, the Liberal Democrats called for a by-election in his marginal constituency of Esher and Walton. 

“Dominic Raab has shown he is not only unfit to serve as a Minister but is totally unfit to represent his constituents in Parliament," the party's deputy leader Daisy Cooper said.

"He should resign as an MP and trigger a by-election so the people of Esher and Walton can finally have the MP they deserve."

Sunak had been under pressure to suspend his deputy, while the investigation was ongoing, and the departure is likely to increase pressure on the Prime Minister to explain whether he was aware in any way of the allegations against Raab, which date back many years.

The register of ministerial interests published on Wednesday stated that Raab had “engaged lawyers at his own expense” during the investigation. It comes as taxpayers have been paying for Boris Johnson’s lawyers in relation to the partygate inquiry. 

Speaking in November, Lord Simon McDonald, who was the leading civil servant at the Foreign Office while Raab was serving as foreign secretary, told Times Radio that many civil servants had been "scared" to go into the office.

He added that Raab was "not aware of the impact of his behaviour on the people working for him and couldn't be made to see that impact".

"Colleagues did not complain to me formally, it was kind of their professional pride to cope, but many were scared to go into his office."

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