Dominic Raab, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister, Resigns Amid Bullying Scandal

Dominic Raab, Britain’s deputy prime minister, resigned on Friday after an investigation found that he had bullied subordinates, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struggles to put a legacy of scandal behind his Conservative government.

Mr. Raab, a hard-line Brexiteer who is one of Mr. Sunak’s most loyal political allies, had long denied allegations of abusive behavior. But the investigation, by an independent barrister, examined eight cases in which civil servants accused Mr. Raab, who also serves as justice secretary, of mistreating them.

The inquiry report published Friday found that in one instance, he acted in a way that was “intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct in the context of a work meeting.” In another, his conduct involved “an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates.” It found no clear evidence of bullying in several of the other cases.

Mr. Raab, 49, is the third cabinet minister in six months to leave over ethics issues, illustrating again the difficulty Mr. Sunak has had in delivering his promise to lead a government of “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.”

In his letter of resignation sent to the prime minister, a day after the report was delivered to Downing Street, Mr. Raab made it clear that he was leaving his position reluctantly, arguing that the inquiry “dismissed all but two of the claims” against him and that the adverse findings about his behavior were flawed.

“In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent,” he wrote. “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.”

While he said that he felt “duty bound” to accept the findings of the investigation, Mr. Raab limited his apology to “any unintended stress or offense” to those working around him. And he accused some of his critics of “the systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media,” in breach of the rules governing public officials.

Mr. Sunak has calmed the waters on economic policy, but he has found it harder to dispel the whiff of scandal that has plagued the Conservative Party for the last 18 months, and aside from Mr. Raab, two other cabinet ministers have lost their jobs under his watch.

Gavin Williamson resigned from the Cabinet Office in November 2022 after messages emerged in which he complained of not being invited to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and Nadhim Zahawi was fired as chairman of the Conservative Party in January after an inquiry into his tax affairs.

“What I think it shows is the continual weakness of the prime minister,” Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told Sky News. Mr. Sunak should never have appointed Mr. Raab in the first place, Mr. Starmer said, adding, “and then he didn’t sack him and even today it’s Raab who resigns rather than the prime minister who acts.”

The uproar over Mr. Raab came just as Mr. Sunak had finally gained some political momentum, signing deals with the European Union on Northern Ireland and with France on migration issues. The perception that Mr. Sunak was a responsible leader whittled down the Conservative Party’s large deficit in polls, though Labour remains ahead by double digits.

Mr. Raab is one of a cadre of young politicians who rose to power in the bitter debate over whether Britain should leave the European Union. He was co-author of a book, “Britannia Unchained,” which described a vision of post-Brexit Britain as an agile, low tax, lightly regulated business mecca — often nicknamed Singapore-on-Thames.

Promoted to the cabinet when Theresa May was prime minister, Mr. Raab resigned his job as Brexit secretary in November 2018 in protest of her proposals for extracting Britain from the European Union.

After an unsuccessful run for Conservative Party leader in 2019, Mr. Raab supported Mr. Johnson and was rewarded with the post of foreign secretary. He had a moment in the spotlight when Mr. Johnson became seriously ill with Covid and deputized Mr. Raab, as the ranking minister, to preside at cabinet meetings while Mr. Johnson was in the hospital.

Later, Mr. Raab was harshly criticized for staying on vacation on a Greek island during the chaotic withdrawal of British and American troops from Afghanistan.

When Mr. Johnson was forced out as prime minister last July, Mr. Raab backed Mr. Sunak over Ms. Truss in the party leadership contest. After Ms. Truss defeated Mr. Sunak, she stocked her cabinet with loyalists and cast Mr. Raab into the political wilderness.

His fortunes rebounded weeks later when Ms. Truss was forced to resign, and Mr. Sunak finally captured 10 Downing Street, with Mr. Raab’s backing. He rewarded Mr. Raab, who was once a lawyer, with the post of justice minister and added the title of deputy prime minister, an unpaid, largely honorary position that does not come with an automatic right to succeed to prime minister.

But even before he was brought back into government, newspapers had reported claims about Mr. Raab’s behavior toward officials, raising questions about whether Mr. Sunak should have been aware of the allegations against him at the time of his appointment.

And soon after resuming his place in the cabinet, Mr. Raab was under fire because of reports that he bullied colleagues. Simon McDonald, a diplomat who ran the Foreign Office while Mr. Raab was foreign secretary, said he had been “abrasive and controlling,” making junior staff members scared of entering his office.

“It was language, it was tone,” Mr. McDonald told Times Radio in November. “He would be very curt with people. And he did this in front of a lot of other people. I think people felt demeaned.” Mr. McDonald said that he had raised concerns with Mr. Raab about his treatment of subordinates.

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