Dominic Raab has resigned as Deputy Prime Minister after accepting a bullying inquiry contained critical findings against him, but warned Rishi Sunak that it set up a “dangerous precedent” for ministerial behaviour.
His resignation followed suggestions that the Justice Secretary was determined to battle on against the allegations, and as Mr Sunak agonised over whether to sack Mr Raab or keep his ally in Cabinet.
But in his resignation letter, Mr Raab acknowledged that there had been “two adverse findings” made by Mr Tolley following the conclusion of the months-long probe.
The Esher and Walton MP, who said he was “sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt”, also claimed that the inquiry had set a “low” threshold for bullying and that such a move would create a “dangerous precedent”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Sunak of “continual weakness” in allowing Mr Raab to resign, while also criticising the former minister’s “whining”.
“I don’t know why Dominic Raab, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, thinks that anybody wants to hear about his whining about having to resign. What I think everybody wants is strong leadership and that has been palpably absent here.”
In a resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Raab said that he was keeping his word, after promising to resign “if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever”.
“I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.”
“First, ministers must be able to exercise direct oversight with respect to senior officials over critical negotiations conducted on behalf of the British people, otherwise the democratic and constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility will be lost.
“Second, ministers must be able to give direct critical feedback on briefings and submissions to senior officials, in order to set the standards and drive the reform the public expect of us.
“Of course, this must be done within reasonable bounds. Mr Tolley concluded that I had not once, in four and a half years, sworn or shouted at anyone, let alone thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone, nor intentionally sought to belittle anyone.”
The Tory MP also complained to Mr Sunak about what he said was a “number of improprieties that came to light during the course of this inquiry”.
He called for an independent review into the “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media in breach of the rules of the inquiry and the Civil Service Code of Conduct, and the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated Private Secretaries from my Ministry of Justice Private Office, in October of last year”.
He also told Mr Sunak that he remained fully supportive of him and the government.
“You have proved a great Prime Minister in very challenging times, and you can count on my support from the backbenches.”
The eight complaints against Mr Raab were believed to centre on his behaviour as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during his first stint as justice secretary.
His exit as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary leaves a major gap in Mr Sunak’s Cabinet, with speculation about who will replace the loyal Sunak backer.
Mr Raab’s resignation comes months after the Prime Minister moved to sack Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party chair amid controversy over his tax affairs, while Sir Gavin Williamson – another Sunak backer – resigned only days into his premiership after it was alleged he sent expletive-laden messages to a former chief whip.
FDA union general secretary Dave Penman called for an independent inquiry into ministerial bullying following the investigation.
“His obviously reluctant tone and dismissal of the complaints says more about his conduct than any findings will.
“This resignation is not a vindication of the current system, it’s a damning indictment of the inadequacy of a process that relies solely on the prime minister of the day to enforce standards,” he said.
The Liberal Democrats demanded a by-election in Dominic Raab’s constituency following his resignation.