UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, accused of bullying, quits

Several of Raab’s subordinates in Westminster had complained about his professional behaviour.

British Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab walks outside Number 10 Downing Street
Former British Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab had faced an inquiry into his behaviour after accusations of bullying [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

British Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab resigned on Friday, following a months-long independent investigation into formal complaints about his behaviour from several civil servants.

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak published on Twitter, Raab said the inquiry had set a dangerous precedent, but that he would remain supportive of the government.

“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,” Raab said.

He complained about employees leaking details of his behaviour to the media, and added: “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 said he felt “duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry” but said it “dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me”.

Raab referred to the two incidents where there was a finding of bullying against him – one at the foreign office in dealing with a senior diplomat’s handling of the Brexit negotiation over Gibraltar, and one where he gave critical feedback during an earlier stint at the Ministry of Justice from 2021 to 2022.

FILE PHOTO: British Conservative member of parliament Alex Chalk walks outside Downing Street, in London, Britain, April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
British Conservative member of Parliament Alex Chalk is set to replace Raab [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Raab is the third senior minister who has departed over their personal conduct since Sunak entered Downing Street in October promising a government of integrity.

Gavin Williamson, was forced to resign in November after bullying allegations, and the prime minister sacked Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi in January after he was found to have broken the ministerial code over his openness about his tax affairs.

Meanwhile, Sunak is facing his own investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog into his behaviour over whether he properly declared his wife’s shareholding in a childcare company which stands to benefit from new government policy.

Alex Chalk, member of Parliament for Cheltenham and a junior minister in the defence department, will replace Raab as justice secretary the government said.

Oliver Dowden, Cabinet office minister, will take on the deputy prime minister role.

FILE PHOTO: British Minister without Portfolio Oliver Dowden  arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting on Downing Street, in London, Britain May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
Oliver Dowden will replace Raab as deputy PM [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Sunak ally

Raab’s announcement on Friday came the day after Sunak received the findings into formal complaints that he had been abusive towards staff.

The investigation heard evidence from multiple government officials about complaints of bullying at three different departments.

Raab, 49, denied claims he belittled and demeaned his staff and said he “behaved professionally at all times”.

He began his career as a lawyer and moved into politics in 2000 when he joined the Foreign Office.

He took on a leading role during the coronavirus pandemic, taking the helm of the government while then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised with the virus.

Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallego, reporting from London, said it is “no secret” that a culture of animosity between the civil service and government is brewing.

“But the allegations against Raab were serious indeed, of bullying, intimation, some staff said they feared going into the office, felt ill, and were unable to do their jobs,” she said.

“This caused a lot of concern on how workable this situation would have been. Had Raab not resigned, members of the civil service said they would have resigned instead.”

The crisis is something of a double-edged sword for Sunak, who Raab rooted for during his campaign to lead Britain.

“Raab was close political ally of Sunak,” Gallego said. “It remains to be seen whether he will remain silent on this issue, as he goes from the front benches of the government.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies