The civil servants who accused Dominic Raab of being a bully most likely feel vindicated: Raab has resigned after a five month long investigation upheld two bullying allegations against him. But if the victims of his unpleasant behaviour had hoped for a heartfelt apology, they’re out of luck.
In his resignation letter, the outgoing Deputy PM and Justice Secretary labelled the findings of Adam Tolley KC’s report “flawed”, warning that the inquiry “has set a dangerous precedent” by “setting the threshold for bullying so low.”
Raab was left with little choice but to step down. Before the damning report came out, he had promised to resign if the inquiry found any evidence of bullying. Though he was quick to point out today that Tolley’s report had dismissed “all but two” of the eight formal complaints levelled against him.
According to the report, Raab’s manner with staff at the Ministry of Justice had been “intimidating” and “insulting in the sense of making unconstructive critical comments” while his conduct during his stint as foreign secretary involved “an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.”
Yet Raab’s so-called apology for such findings feels rather more like a dig. In his letter, the 49 year-old writes that he is “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,” he added.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has accepted the resignation of one of his most loyal allies “with great sadness,” adding that he will “always be grateful” for Raab’s “steadfast personal support during last year’s Conservative Party leadership contest”.
In reality, the PM will likey feel some relief at Raab’s own decision to resign. It prevented him from having to make a tough call himself about whether his close friend and deputy had become too much of political liability to stick by.
Read Dominic Raab’s resignation letter in full below:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to resign from your government, following receipt of the report arising from the inquiry conducted by Adam Tolley KC. 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.
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It has been a privilege to serve you as deputy prime minister, justice secretary and lord chancellor. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work as a minister in a range of roles and departments since 2015, and pay tribute to the many outstanding civil servants with whom I have worked.
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. First, ministers must be able to exercise direct oversight with respect to senior officials over critical negotiations conducted on behalf of the British people, otherwise the democratic and constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility will be lost. This was particularly true during my time as foreign secretary, in the context of the Brexit negotiations over Gibraltar, when a senior diplomat breached the mandate agreed by cabinet.
Second, 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. Of course, this must be done within reasonable bounds. Mr Tolley concluded that I 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. 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.
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.
Finally, I raised with you a number of improprieties that came to light during the course of this inquiry. They include the systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media in breach of the rules of the inquiry and the Civil Service Code of Conduct, and the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated private secretaries from my Ministry of Justice private office, in October of last year. I hope these will be independently reviewed.
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 backbenches.