Dominic Raab was “forced out” because of his unwavering determination to make Britain better, allies said. Bullying claims against the departing Deputy Prime Minister were branded a “load of rubbish” that have been “drummed up by snowflakes” in the Civil Service.
As the fallout over his dramatic resignation from Rishi Sunak’s government intensified, a Tory MP warned: “We are not a serious country.”
Mr Raab yesterday quit his double role as Deputy PM and Justice Secretary after an independent inquiry found he acted in an “intimidating” and “aggressive” way towards officials.
The karate-loving MP went out fighting, slamming the probe as “Kafkaesque” and suggesting he was forced out by “activist civil servants”. He warned the nation will “pay the price” if the threshold for bullying in government has been lowered.
Mr Raab said: “What you’ve got is the risk here of 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. That’s not on, that’s not democratic.”
The resignation of Mr Raab – one of Mr Sunak’s key supporters during the Conservative leadership contest last year – triggered a mini-reshuffle of the PM’s top team.
He swiftly promoted two of his closest allies. Oliver Dowden became Deputy Prime Minister, while Alex Chalk is the new Justice Secretary.
A former Tory Cabinet minister told the Daily Express: “Dom is passionate about making Britain a better place and he’s been forced out because of that.”
A senior Foreign Office source said: “The bullying claims really are a load of rubbish. It is just drummed up complaints from snowflakes in the civil service.”
The bullying probe by Adam Tolley KC upheld two of eight complaints against Mr Raab after finding he engaged in an “abuse or misuse of power” that “undermines or humiliates” while he was Foreign Secretary.
But it cleared him of shouting or swearing at staff, or raising his arms in a threatening manner – some of the complaints made about him.
The 48-page report suggested staff had been upset by Mr Raab’s “inquisitorial, direct, impatient and fastidious” style, which included criticising their work to their faces and interrupting them in meetings, it was said.
Mr Tolley’s report concluded Mr Raab “acted in a manner which was intimidating” towards officials at the Ministry of Justice. Mr Raab pulled no punches in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, slamming a “number of improprieties” during the inquiry.
This included “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims”, he said.
He alleged that the inquiry has “set a dangerous precedent” by setting a “low” threshold for bullying.
He said: “It will encourage spurious complaints against ministers, and have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government, and ultimately the British people.”
The Tory MP saved even stronger language for an article published on a newspaper website. He wrote that the “Kafkaesque saga I endured was shorn of the safeguards most people enjoy”, arguing the normal rules of fairness were not followed.
He added: “These outrageous assertions were not based on any professional assessment. Far from a climate of fear gripping my office, committed officials were forced out, and complaints encouraged.”
Allies of Mr Raab yesterday lashed out at the report. Serving government whip Joy Morrissey said: “Sadly, we now live in a country where the definition of bullying includes telling someone to do their job. Where the slightest upset or annoyance is indulged with endless reports and inquiries.”
Tory backbencher Craig Mackinlay said: “I worry that if this is the new approach, a scalp of a Conservative minister by various civil servants, I think it’s quite a dangerous precedent.”
Robert Goodwill, a former environment minister, said: “If you’ve got a guy working for you in the civil service, who’s not pulling his weight, not doing his job, he may even be incompetent. How do you communicate that without being described as a bully?”
In a letter to Mr Raab, Mr Sunak said his former deputy had kept his word after “rightly” undertaking to resign if the report made any finding of bullying whatsoever.
But the PM said he thought there had been “shortcomings” in the process and had asked civil servants to look at how complaints are handled. A Downing Street source said Mr Sunak did not urge Mr Raab to resign.
The FDA, a union that represents civil servants, has now called for an independent inquiry into ministerial bullying.