After a series of delays in the countdown, we finally witnessed a “rapid, unscheduled disassembly” of something that was years in the making. No, I don’t mean Elon Musk’s latest rocket; I mean Dominic Raab’s ministerial career.
Raab had been forced to resign after an investigation by Adam Tolley KC upheld some of the complaints that he had bullied civil servants. Friday morning’s Daily Telegraph had reported that Raab would “fight to the death” to keep his job and, as news of the resignation unfolded, the Express reported that Raab was “raging” at the “dangerous precedent” set by the bullying report. “Fighting to the death” and “raging”? Isn’t that what got him into this mess in the first place?
Anyone seeing a pattern?
Raab’s resignation letter was notable for its lack of contrition, complaining that Tolley’s report was “setting the threshold for bullying so low”. Absolutely. I’m sure Raab could bully people much worse if they just set the threshold higher.
Raab noted also that the report “concluded that I had not once, in four and a half years, sworn or shouted at anyone”, which will come as news to everyone who saw him call Keir Starmer a wanker during prime minister’s questions. Raab also went on to say that he had not “thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone”, which perhaps suggests he thinks the threshold for bullying needs to involve actual physical assault.
Finally, he had not “intentionally sought to belittle anyone”. Hmm. That reminds me of something else – the report into Priti Patel’s bullying, which said her behaviour was also apparently “unintentional”. Then there was Gavin Williamson’s resignation last year for bullying. Anyone seeing a pattern here? To have one government minister guilty of bullying is unfortunate; to have three looks less like carelessness and more like something culturally systemic.
Raab: the non-apologists’ non-apologist
Raab naturally also gave the classic non-apology apology, saying he was sorry for “any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt”. Ah yes, it’s not that he did anything wrong, it’s just other people’s feelings.
Apparently the stress anyone “felt” was “as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought”. Of course, that’s it – Raab was just too good at his job. Other people simply can’t keep up with him. Yes indeed, I well remember the “pace” and “standards” that Raab brought to his job when Kabul was being evacuated, relaxing in his sun lounger and refusing to take calls. Then there was the time he admitted, when foreign secretary, that he hadn’t found time to read the Good Friday agreement, which is a whole 32 pages long. Pace and standards, guys. Pace and standards.
Amongst the usual non-apologies and self-justifications, the biggest surprise was that Raab didn’t complain that the Tolley report hadn’t been formatted properly.
The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, had received the report the previous day but had not made any decision on whether to sack or support Raab, leading Sunak to be “accused of dithering”. Wait, what? Is dithering now against the ministerial code now as well? We’d better set up an enquiry, which can report back in about five months as to whether he was really dithering, or if other people just felt that way. Personally, I think we should set the dithering threshold much higher. Boris Johnson managed to sit on the Priti Patel bullying report for months before doing nothing whatsoever. That’s weapons-grade, off-the-chart dithering right there. Sunak needs to be able to dither much more ineffectively.
I don’t even know why Sunak was dithering though. He could have done the same with Raab as he did with Suella Braverman – get rid of him and then welcome him back into another role a few days later. Five or six days should be more than enough to “learn from his mistake” and get back to doing what he does best – harbouring an unjustified sense of his own self-worth and unintentionally belittling people.