Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister, experienced a significant setback in his leadership on Friday when a close associate stepped down due to accusations of bullying officials.
Dominic Raab announced his resignation as deputy prime minister and justice secretary on Friday through a Twitter-posted letter, following an official inquiry that substantiated some allegations against him.
The investigation into Raab, led by independent examiner Adam Tolley, was prompted by eight formal complaints regarding his conduct while holding positions as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary, and justice secretary.
“I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign, if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever. I believe it is important to keep my word,” he stated.
He further explained that the inquiry “dismissed all but two of the claims leveled against me” and “concluded I has 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.”
Raab also expressed his belief that the report establishes a “dangerous precedent by setting the bar for bullying so low” and argued that its conclusions were “flawed.”
Since joining the government as a junior minister in 2015, Raab held numerous prominent roles, including deputy prime minister, justice secretary, and Lord Chancellor in Rishi Sunak’s administration.
He served as foreign secretary during Boris Johnson’s tenure but was dismissed after facing severe criticism for the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Raab was vacationing in Greece when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
Calls for his resignation grew louder after it was revealed that shortly before Kabul fell, Raab delegated an urgent call with the Afghan foreign minister regarding the evacuation of interpreters who had worked with British armed forces to a deputy. The call never occurred.
Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party leader, condemned Sunak for allowing Raab to resign instead of dismissing him. Starmer told the BBC on Friday that the decision demonstrated “weakness throughout” the government.
“There’s a double weakness here. He should never have appointed him, and then he didn’t sack him,” he added.
Sunak’s premiership is further weakened by Raab’s resignation, as despite being a right-leaning Conservative, he has been portrayed as milder than predecessors Liz Truss and Johnson.
The comparison to Johnson is especially relevant, as Sunak served as his Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Covid pandemic before tendering his resignation amidst scandals surrounding the then-prime minister.
Johnson’s allies believe Sunak’s resignation contributed to the end of his leadership and have not forgiven him.
In his resignation letter, Raab, seen as a staunch Brexiteer and key figure of the party’s right wing, reminded Sunak of his loyalty since Sunak’s unsuccessful leadership bid the previous summer.
Raab gained the notice of the Euroskeptic movement in 2014 when he led a revolt of 81 MPs against then-PM and avid Europhile David Cameron.
Raab strengthened Sunak’s right-wing credibility, aiding in the implementation of policies that required the support of that faction of the party.
Although Raab has pledged loyalty to Sunak, ex-ministers have the ability to cause problems from the backbenches if they desire.
The issue now is whether Raab wishes to do this. He is genuinely loyal to Sunak and recognizes Sunak as a political ally to the party’s right wing. However, his resignation letter suggests Raab was quite displeased about leaving the government.
The upcoming days will reveal more about whether Raab was forced out or voluntarily resigned. If the former is true, he may have reason to make things difficult for Sunak in the future when contending with Johnson’s allies on the party’s right.
Raab marks the second ally of Sunak to step down due to bullying accusations in a span of less than six months. Previously, Cabinet Office Minister Gavin Williamson resigned from his position in November, refuting the allegations against him.
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