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UK Deputy PM resigns over bullying charges

By Savannah Hamilton
|
April 23, 2023

UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned from his position on Friday following the publication of a report over multiple bullying allegations from his staff. The report, which was published on Thursday, is considered a career-ender for the British politician.

Between 2021 and 2023, Raab served as Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Justice, and Lord Chancellor. He has also been a member of the British parliament since 2010 but particularly made a name for himself during Boris Johnson’s time as PM.

Raab is the third British minister to leave office under PM Rishi Sunak’s rule and can potentially damage the current government’s image even further.

While Raab has expressed sincere regret, saying that he was “genuinely sorry,” and that he felt “duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry,” he also found the outcome concerning. The report set “the threshold for bullying so low,” he said, adding that it could set a “dangerous precedent” and possibly encourage “spurious complaints.”

In an interview with the BBC, Raab explained, “What you've got the risk here of is a very small minority of very activist, civil servants, with a passive aggressive culture of the civil service, who don't like some of the reforms, whether it's Brexit, whether it's parole reform, whether it's human rights reform, effectively trying to block government.”

Raab’s resignation was accepted by Sunak with “great sadness,” and followed by the appointment of Oliver Dowden the same day as the new deputy prime minister.

What’s in the Report?

Following two formal complaints from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), an independent investigation into Raab’s behavior was approved by Sunak on November 16th, 2022.

Nearly a week later, further complaints were filed.

Adam Tolley, a lawyer, conducted the investigation which involved interviews with 66 people as well as multiple meetings with Raab himself.

The final report concluded that Raab “acted in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive in the context of a workplace meeting. His conduct also involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.”

The report also found that Raab “went beyond what was reasonably necessary in order to give effect to his decision and introduced a punitive element. His conduct was bound to be experienced as undermining or humiliating by the affected individual, and it was so experienced.”

Tolley said he thought the people he interviewed “deserve credit for their courage in coming forward.”

Sunak Under Fire

Raab’s departure could damage Sunak’s reputation even further since the current PM is already facing backlash despite being in office only seven months. 

Aside from Raab, two other ministers had resigned in the short period, including Conservative party chair Nadhim Zahawi and Minister of State Gavin Williamson. Williamson was also reportedly accused of bullying.

Critics point out that Sunak promised to restore “integrity” to both Downing Street and the Tory party and Raab’s resignation does not help his or his party’s PR image.

It is yet another blow to Sunak, following allegations of financial misconduct and fines over breaking COVID lockdown rules. 

Considering that both of the previous Tory PMs, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, had their fair share of scandals, political experts believe this could spell bad news for the Tories in future elections.