UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned after an independent investigation criticized his treatment of civil servants, the result of a months-long saga that cost Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a key ally and undermined his pledge to restore professionalism to the government.
The report Friday found that Raab was abrasive, aggressive and intimidating toward non-political officials during previous stints leading government departments. During one incident while serving as foreign secretary between 2019 and 2021, he was found to have behaved in a way that “involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.”
A defiant Raab, 49, denounced the investigation by an outside employment law expert as a “Kafkaesque saga,” writing in the Daily Telegraph that he was “shorn of the safeguards most people enjoy.” In his resignation letter to Sunak, he said the report set a “dangerous precedent,” but he was nevertheless “duty-bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry.”
Sunak said in his response that he accepted Raab’s resignation with “great sadness.” He later named Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden as his deputy and appointed Alex Chalk as justice secretary.
Dominic Raab resignation statement.
The resignation deprives Sunak of one of his closest allies barely six months after he took power, pledging to restore professionalism after the scandals and chaos of the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss eras. But the ruling Conservative Party needed to move on quickly before local elections are held across England in less than two weeks
“Sunak’s only chance of closing the gap with Labour is that voters think he runs a competent government focused on their priorities,” said Luke Tryl, a former government adviser who’s now director of the More in Common research firm.
Party leaders have already warned that they could lose as many as 1,000 seats amid a cost-of-living crisis and voter dissatisfaction after 13 years of Tory rule.
Employment law specialist Adam Tolley was asked by Sunak in November to look into the accusations leveled against Raab. In all, Tolley had been looking into eight formal complaints covering Raab’s tenure in three government departments that predated the Sunak administration.
In his report, Tolley said:
At one meeting when he was foreign secretary, Raab “acted in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct.”
In relation to the Foreign Office complaint, Raab’s conduct “involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.”
Raab in his first tenure as justice secretary “was on some occasions ‘abrasive’, in the sense of a personal style which is and feels intimidating or insulting to the individual.”
Raab described some justice officials’ work as “utterly useless” and “woeful”, but did “not intend by the conduct described to upset or humiliate.”
Raab’s conduct as Brexit secretary “was not offensive, malicious or insulting.”
There had been a “series of inaccurate and misleading media reports” about the probe.
There was “no persuasive evidence” that Raab shouted at individuals, or swore at anyone.