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Dominic Raab: deputy PM quits after bullying report

Dominic Raab has resigned as justice secretary and deputy prime minister after a five-month inquiry into allegations of bullying reported to the prime minister.

The inquiry, conducted by senior lawyer Adam Tolley KC, was ordered by Rishi Sunak after complaints about Raab’s behaviour as a minister. 

It found that on one occasion Raab had “acted in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive in the context of a workplace meeting”.

This “conduct was bound to be experienced as undermining or humiliating by the affected individual, and it was so experienced”, the report said.

Tolley’s verdict is “likely to end” Raab’s “abrasive political career”, said The Guardian.

In his resignation statement, Raab said that the inquiry “dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me”. He insisted that the conclusions of a report into his conduct set a “dangerous precedent” but stressed he wanted to “keep his word” after he had undertaken to quit if it found against him.

Who is Dominic Raab?

Raab was born in Buckinghamshire to a Czech-born Jewish father who came to Britain in 1938 as a refugee.

He studied law at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and for a master’s at Cambridge, winning the Clive Parry Prize for International Law. He began his working career as a business lawyer at City law firm Linklaters, where he specialised in project finance, competition law and international litigation. 

He also completed secondments at human rights NGO Liberty and in Brussels advising on European Union and World Trade Organization law, the government website said.

From 2000 to 2006, Raab worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on a range of issues including investor protection. As an FCO lawyer, Raab was also the lead on a team “focusing on bringing war criminals to justice at The Hague”, the BBC reported.

He is married to Brazil-born Erika, a former Google marketing executive, with whom he has two sons. He holds a black belt third Dan in karate and is a keen boxer, with a picture of Muhammad Ali reportedly spotted hanging in his Commons office. 

Raab’s parliamentary career

Raab is “not short on experience”, said Tominey in The Telegraph last summer, when he was being talked about as a potential successor to Boris Johnnson. He became MP for Esher and Walton, a safe Tory seat, in 2010, and has served in government since after the 2015 election, initially working in the Ministry of Justice before moving to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in January 2018.

In 2017, Raab was described as “offensive” by then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, after saying that “the typical user of a food bank is not someone that’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cash flow problem”.

Brexiteer Raab was promoted to secretary of state for Leaving the European Union in July 2018, a post he held until November 2018, when he resigned over his disapproval of Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.

He “famously received a slap down from [May] in 2011 in her role as minister for women and equalities”, after he labelled feminists “obnoxious bigots”, said The New Statesman.

Raab ran in the race to succeed her as Tory party leader in 2019, but was eliminated in the second ballot of Conservative MPs and instead endorsed Johnson for the job.

Johnson subsequently named him foreign secretary and first secretary of state (effectively deputy prime minister), in July 2019. In April the following year, Raab took over the PM’s responsibilities while Johnson was hospitalised with Covid. At the time, colleagues told Politico that the state secretary would be “a forensic stand-in” for the PM – “albeit one who sometimes lacks charm”. 

Last September, Raab was demoted to the role of lord chancellor. But he “insisted” that as well as becoming secretary of state for justice, he should also have the official title of deputy prime minister “rather than the de facto role of first secretary of state”, a demand that sparked curiosity as to whether Raab “had let his ego get the better of him”, said The Telegraph’s Tominey.

Bullying allegations and resignation

In November last year, The Guardian reported on allegations of bullying against the deputy PM from the civil service. One source saying Raab had created a culture that was “demeaning rather than demanding” and that the minister “wasn’t just unprofessional, he was a bully”. The Guardian’s article was quickly followed by similar allegations in The Sun and The Mirror. 

John Stevens, the political editor of The Mirror, then reported that Raab had been nicknamed “The Incinerator” by workers at the Ministry of Justice “as he burns through officials”.

A total of 44 pieces of written evidence and 66 interviews were taken into consideration by Tolley, when putting together the report into Raab’s behaviour and Raab himself was interviewed four times.

The report eventually concluded that Raab had “acted in a manner which was intimidating, in the sense of going further than was necessary or appropriate in delivering critical feedback”. 

In a column for The Telegraph explaining his decision to resign, Raab described the bullying inquiry as “Kafkaesque” and said that “normal rules of evidence and procedural fairness were disapplied”.

His resignation caught some by surprise. ITV’s political editor, Robert Peston, tweeted last night that, having read Tolley’s report, Raab “believes it does not show he breached the Ministerial Code, and therefore he will not be offering his resignation”. Sunak would have to “decide whether to sack him”.

This morning, speculation has turned to whether Raab jumped before he was pushed – or was fired. Tom Newton Dunn, presenter of TalkTV’s politics programme, tweeted that there was “no acceptance in Raab’s resignation letter that he bullied”. The letter was “an outright attack on the Tolley report instead – so he was clearly fired rather than walked”, he added.

However, the BBC’s chief political correspondent, Nick Eardley, said this morning “sources inside Downing Street are insisting” that Sunak “did not ask Dominic Raab to resign”.

The “coming days” will “tell us more about the extent to which Raab was pushed or jumped”, said CNN. “If it’s the former, he could have reason to make life difficult for Sunak later down the line when he struggles with Johnson allies on the right of the party”.

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