Raab’s resignation over bullying is a sign of Sunak’s weakness

Last Updated: April 21, 2023By Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Happier times for them: Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak.

Dominic Raab has resigned as Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, after making Rishi Sunak wait a day for him to do it.

He went with the ill grace that has characterised his ministerial career – blaming anybody else he could find.

An inquiry by Adam Tolley KC investigated eight allegations of bullying against Raab, and found him guilty of two.

He handed his report to prime minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday morning (April 21),

It seems Sunak then sat on it for 24 hours, waiting for Raab to do the right thing and resign.

Downing Street says no pressure was applied to Raab and there is no indication that Sunak ever considered sacking him. Resigning means Raab gets to keep his Ministerial pension, and this means that – in practice – any Tory Cabinet Minister found to have committed misdeeds is given the opportunity to resign. Remember how Priti Patel left Theresa May’s Cabinet?

According to the BBC, the report states that:

on a number of occasions, while meeting with policy officials, Raab “acted in a manner which was intimidating, in the sense of going further than was necessary or appropriate in delivering critical feedback, and also insulting, in the sense of making unconstructive critical comments about the quality of work done (whether or not as a matter of substance any criticism was justified).”

It concludes that while implementing a certain decision in the role “he acted in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct in the context of a work meeting.

“His conduct also involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates. He introduced an unwarranted punitive element.”

It looks at his behaviour in meetings with officials as justice secretary, and picks out an example where Raab complained about the absence of “basic information” from officials, about staff “whom he perceived to be resistant to his policies, and described some work as “utterly useless” and “woeful”.

Raab’s “interruptive style” is not in itself intimidating, the report says, but the combination of this with “unconstructive critical feedback is likely to have been experienced as intimidating, in the sense of being unreasonably difficult to deal with”.

It seems Raab had said he would resign if there was any finding of bullying at all and Sunak had simply waited for him to honour his word. Caught between a rock and a hard place – the findings of the report were always going to be publicised and his comments were already public knowledge – it was just a matter of time before Raab went.

But he didn’t go quietly.

Instead, he complained that Mr Tolley had set his standard for bullying at a very low level, meaning his inquiry had “set a dangerous precedent”.

Was this true, though? It seems to me that, if six allegations had been dismissed, then there must at least have been some reasonable basis for the level at which Mr Tolley decided bullying had taken place.

In his resignation letter, Raab made it clear that he did not agree with the findings against him. He said 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.

“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.”

In another part of the letter he said 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”.

This has been described as a “non-apology” by a person who “advised him at a senior level in a government department”. This person said: “Whilst the letter contains an apology, it’s one of the best examples of a ‘non-apology’ from a minister in recent years. It’s relatively easy to set pace, standards and challenge, it’s much harder to lead effectively to deliver against these objectives.”

This person continued: “Raab’s version of a Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister is one that should be learnt from and ultimately consigned to the history books. The level of relief from hard-working civil servants who can now, under new leadership, get on with the challenging and important jobs they signed up to do, is palpable.”

That claim has been borne out by responses to the BBC by civil servants. One said: “I feel relief – just huge relief.”

Another added: “It’s perhaps of note from his letter that he feels there are different, perhaps acceptable thresholds of bullying, which perhaps says all it needs to say about this whole fiasco.”

Sunak himself has stated that there were “shortcomings in the historic process” by which the inquiry was carried out, that have “negatively affected everyone involved”, and “we should learn from this how to better handle such matters in future”.

This is another indication of the prime minister’s personal weakness.

One of his ministers has been found to be a bully, but he’s not about to bring in measures to ensure that nobody else does the same.

Instead, it seems he wants to water down the process to ensure that it can’t make a similar finding against any of his other ministers, even if they deserve it.

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  1. Hecuba April 21, 2023 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Little dictators never accept responsibility for exploiting their power and control over subordinates. Instead they always play ‘the poor little victim!’ Raab is another arrogant unintelligent politician who believed everything he said and did was right and everyone else was wrong!

    I’m very surprised only two allegations were supposedly ‘proven’ which to me shows the investigation was very very poor. I as one of the ‘members of public’ Raab refers to expect and demand all ministers to act ethically and professionally and not exploit their immense positions of power over subordinates. However as usual absolute power corrupts and Raab is furious he has been held to account.

    Now expect him to ‘slink back into a ministerial position because Sunak is another weak puppet too frightened to instigate measures ensuring other rotten ministers don’t imitate little dictator Raab!!

  2. Karen April 21, 2023 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    About time he should have gone ages ago ..He loves himself wish a lot more would resign all in it for filling their pockets

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