Dominic Raab’s Resignation Exposes the Rotten Heart of Sunak’s Government
The former Deputy Prime Minister’s bullying behaviour was long tolerated and excused by Rishi Sunak and his media supporters, reports Adam Bienkov
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Dominic Raab is a bully. That’s the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from the investigation which has finally led to his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister.
The report’s author Adam Tolley examined dozens of accounts of Raab’s behaviour towards officials and found that he had acted “in a way which was intimidating… and persistently aggressive”. He also found that his conduct had “involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates”.
Given the report’s findings, and the many other similar allegations made against Raab over the years, you might have expected the Prime Minister to have immediately sacked his deputy when he first received the findings of Tolley’s investigation.
However, rather than immediately forcing him out in disgrace, Sunak instead allowed Raab to remain in place for a further 24 hours, until finally being allowed to step aside – with a statement dismissing Tolley’s report as “flawed” and suggesting that it would have a “chilling effect” on Government.
For some time after his resignation, Raab’s spin on the report, which he was allowed to expand upon at length in the Telegraph, remained the only account anyone outside of Government had of its findings.
By the time Downing Street finally released the report to the rest of us, complete with a gushing accompanying letter to his former colleague from the Prime Minister, Raab’s version of events were already dominating the headlines.
Sunak did little to reverse this distorted impression, telling Raab in his response that he regretted the “shortcomings” in the process which ultimately led to his resignation. Later, his spokesperson also suggested to journalists that Downing Street would “look at” the current system in order to allow ministers to be able to “ensure accountability at every level” while remaining “robust” with officials.
Asked repeatedly to say whether he approved of Tolley’s report, or would describe it as a “good” piece of work, Sunak’s spokesman would only say that the Prime Minister believed it to be “thorough”. This is a remarkably thin assessment of a report that took Tolley many months to complete.
Sunak was similarly reluctant to explicitly criticise Raab personally, with his spokesman resisting all requests to rule out bringing his close ally back into Government.
When Rishi Sunak entered Downing Street last year, he promised to restore “integrity” to Government, insisting that he would always ensure that “there is accountability when people don’t behave in a way that they should”.
Instead, he appointed a series of ministers who already had longstanding allegations against them, only for three of them to later be forced out after their behaviour was finally fully exposed.
However, in this case it was not just Sunak and his Government that tolerated and excused Raab’s behaviour, but much of the media too.
Throughout this process, Raab was heavily defended by parts of the right-wing press, which dismissed the allegations against him as coming from “snowflakes” in the Civil Service, which they accused of waging a “campaign” against him.
Their loyalty is unsurprising. Raab has long been a central figure on the hard-right of the Conservative Party. In the past, he has described feminists as “obnoxious bigots”, suggested that men are getting a “raw deal” compared to women, complained about “wokery” in comedy, and co-authored a report describing British workers as being “among the worst idlers in the world”.
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Even the BBC has at times treated him with kid gloves. In a recent interview on her Sunday morning show, following the launch of the investigation into his conduct, Laura Kuenssberg danced around the issue of his alleged bullying, before finally asking him whether his “plain-speaking” with civil servants “may be a good thing”.
This suggestion that Raab’s behaviour may not just be understandable, but could actually be a net positive, has dominated much of the coverage of this saga.
Yet, an objective examination of his record reveals not a single significant policy achievement during his time in Government – either as Brexit Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Justice Secretary or Deputy Prime Minister.
But even if there had been such an achievement, the many allegations against him – the central charge of which has now finally been confirmed – should long ago have led to his departure from such a senior position in public life.
That Raab’s behaviour has instead not just been tolerated, but actively defended by Sunak and his media supporters, tells us everything that we need to know about the rotten standards still dominating within this Government.