Exit of Sunak’s No. 2 Only Deepens Battle Within UK Government.

The resignation of Britain’s deputy prime minister marks an escalation and not the end of a bullying scandal that threatens to destabilize a government Rishi Sunak said would bear no resemblance to his predecessors.
Dominic Raab, who was also justice secretary, quit Friday after a probe upheld two complaints against him by government officials, finding that he “acted in a way that was intimidating” and “involved an abuse or misuse of power.” But his resignation letter — written in the combative style for which Raab is known — made clear he harbored resentment against the officials involved in the complaints process. 
Raab, 49, took aim at “flawed” findings that set a “dangerous precedent” and makes it harder for ministers to do their jobs. Far from going quietly, he called for a separate investigation into the behavior of senior officials at the Ministry of Justice.
The departure robs Sunak of a key ally who ran his leadership campaign and acted as a bulwark against those in the Conservative Party who worry their prime minister is not right-wing enough. With local elections in less than two weeks seen as a test of the Tories’ ability to claw back ground lost to the poll-leading Labour Party, it also undermines Sunak’s core message. 
The prime minister vowed to move on from the chaos of Liz Truss and the scandals of Boris Johnson. Instead, Raab is the third Cabinet member to depart during Sunak’s six months in office. Gavin Williamson was embroiled in separate bullying allegations and Nadhim Zahawi broke the ministerial code over statements about his tax affairs.
In his own letter to Raab, Sunak avoided giving a verdict on the former minister’s behavior. He referred to “shortcomings in the historic process,” a statement that appeared to criticize how senior officials handled the issue.
The acrimony is likely to open a new front line in the battle at the heart of government between ministers and the civil servants who keep departments running. Just hours after Raab’s resignation, other civil servants were considering filing formal complaints, according to people familiar with the matter.
Sunak is battling criticism from Tories on the right of the party, including some members of his own government, who wanted him to stand by Raab in the face of criticism from bureaucrats and the media they say is driven by ideological differences such as Brexit and immigration. That’s despite the fact that Adam Tolley, the lawyer brought in by Sunak to run the investigation, found the complainants against Raab had acted in good faith.
Their argument is that backing Raab would have appealed to the Conservative Party base, where the view that civil servants, or “the blob,” tried to thwart Brexit and oppose tough border controls has become common. One Tory MP said Raab was the victim of cancel culture, and that Sunak should have argued it was essential for ministers to be able to make robust demands.
While Raab said he would be loyal from the backbenchers, he could join a faction of around 20 right-wing Tory MPs with an ax to grind against the government, an MP close to him said. This could see him back hardliners seeking to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, for example.
Sunak’s handling of the process was also criticized by Tory MPs. According to a person familiar with the matter, Sunak didn’t order Raab. One MP said the premier’s failure on Thursday to deliver a decisive judgment after receiving the report left Sunak open to accusations of weakness from both the Tory right and Labour. 
Raab’s view that his departure could trigger fresh claims against others is shared by officials and ministers alike. Ministers are thinking back over every cross word or criticism that they have uttered to officials, one said, fearing they could be accused of bullying next. 
From the other flank, the FDA labor union representing civil servants has called for a full inquiry into ministerial bullying. According to civil servants who spoke to Bloomberg, it is typical for ministers to become angry with junior staff, and politicians have not caught up with modern workplace standards.
Bloomberg has reported that one former Cabinet minister, Alok Sharma, is also facing bullying allegations, which he denies. 
One senior official said the Tolley report was a vindication of civil servants’ complaints about Raab. Many of the findings — such as the abuse of power — were worse than previously reported by the media, said the official, noting the report also commended the bravery of officials for speaking out.
Another government aide said it was inevitable Raab had to go, to prevent the likelihood that silhouetted complainants would have appeared on broadcast news over the next week accusing Sunak of allowing a culture of bullying. That outcome was unthinkable for a prime minister who vowed “integrity and accountability,” let alone in the run up to the local elections, the aide said.
Relations between ministers and officials are at rock bottom after the Raab investigation and senior official Sue Gray’s move to Labour this year. 
This toxic environment poses a serious threat to Sunak’s chances of closing the gap to Labour, an official said. Doing so requires meeting his policy pledges to cut National Health Service waiting lists and stop the arrival of asylum seekers in small boats from France. Both require the work of civil servants.
There’s little sign of many in Sunak’s party about to change their view of civil servants. Yet on Friday, Nadine Dorries — a former cabinet secretary under Johnson and no stranger to a culture war barb — told TalkTV there’s a good reason why they should: “These people are far more qualified than many ministers and many MPs.”

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