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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alamy Stock Photo Dominic Raab
dominic raab

Dominic Raab quits UK Cabinet but slams 'Kafkaesque' inquiry into bullying allegations

The inquiry stopped short of ruling whether Raab’s behaviour amounted to bullying but made multiple findings against him.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 21st 2023, 12:56 PM

UK DEPUTY PRIME Minister Dominic Raab has resigned following an inquiry into bullying allegations.

The report by senior lawyer Adam Tolley was handed into UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday and published today.

It concluded that Raab engaged in an “abuse or misuse of power” that “undermines or humiliates” while foreign secretary.

Raab’s conduct in the department was deemed to have had a “significant adverse effect” on one colleague and he was also found to have been “intimidating” to staff by criticising “utterly useless” work while he was justice secretary.

Tolley’s five-month investigation focused on eight formal complaints about Raab’s conduct as Brexit secretary and foreign secretary, and in his previous tenure leading the Ministry of Justice.

The senior lawyer stopped short of ruling whether Raab’s behaviour amounted to bullying but made multiple findings that fit his definition of bullying.

Raab acted in an “intimidating” fashion with “unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct” in a work meeting while he was foreign secretary, the report said.

He also committed an “abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates” with a staffing move, which Raab argued was key to Brexit negotiations on Gibraltar with Spain.

But Tolley said he “introduced an unwarranted punitive element” while his conduct was inevitably “experienced as undermining or humiliating by the affected individual”.

On a separate occasion while running the Foreign Office, Raab was found to have caused a “significant adverse effect” on a civil servant after conveying a threat.

He was said to have issued “unspecified disciplinary action”, suggesting there had been a breach of the Civil Service Code.

Though he did not make any formal findings about Raab’s conduct in relation to these claims, Tolley did say Raab acted in an “intimidating” manner at meetings with policy officials.

He made “unconstructive critical comments” about the quality of work, including criticising the absence of “the basics”.

Raab was found to have criticised the “‘obstructiveness” of officials and described some work as “utterly useless” and “woeful”.

Tolley said behaviour that constitutes bullying under the ministerial code if it could be characterised as offensive, intimidating or insulting, or amount to a misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.

Downing Street suggested that Sunak accepts that Raab broke the Ministerial Code with the finding of bullying.

Sunak’s official spokesman said: “You can see the aspects relevant to the code are set out in the report. I think those speak for themselves.

“The Prime Minister thinks it’s right that any findings whatsoever that are deemed to be bullying, it’s right to resign. That’s the commitment the former secretary of state made and he’s upheld that commitment.”

Asked whether he would condemn the behaviour, the spokesman said: “Clearly, any bullying in general terms is unacceptable and there are clear rules that apply to that.”

‘Kafkaesque saga’

British prime minister Rishi Sunak, who had spent the night agonising over whether to sack his key ally, accepted Raab’s resignation on Friday morning with “great sadness”.

Raab said in his resignation letter to British prime minister Rishi Sunak that he was “genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt”.

However, Raab, who also quit as justice secretary, went down swinging, criticising the “Kafkaesque saga” and accusing “committed officials” of trying to force him out of the Cabinet.

“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,” he said in a letter to Sunak.

While Raab said that he was “duty bound” to accept the outcome of the inquiry, he was critical of the findings against him and labelled them as “flawed”.

“Whilst I feel duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me. I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.”

Raab, who was both the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, was critical of the low threshold for bullying and said that it created a “dangerous precedent”.

He said that Ministers must be able to give “direct critical feedback” on both briefings and submissions from civil servants, to set standards and “drive the reform the public expect of us”.

“In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent,” Raab said.

“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 was also critical of “improprieties” that appeared during the course of the inquiry, particularly what he said was the “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims” to the UK press.

He also said that he would remain supportive of Sunak’s government from the Tory backbenches.

Rabb also criticised the inquiry in an op-ed with The Telegraph.

He claimed he has “endured” a “Kafkaesque saga” and was “subject to trial by media for six months, fuelled by warped and fabricated accounts leaked by anonymous officials”. 

Reacting to the resignation, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said that Sunak was weak for failing to sack Raab.

“What I think this shows is the continual weakness of the Prime Minister,” Starmer said.

“Because there’s a double weakness here. He should never have appointed him in the first place, along with other members of the Cabinet that shouldn’t have been appointed, and then he didn’t sack him.

“Even today, it’s Raab who resigned rather than the Prime Minister who acts.”

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