British Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab reacts outside Downing Street as he attends the British cabinet’s weekly meeting, in London, Britain February 21, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville
LONDON (Reuters) -British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned from the government on Friday following an independent investigation into complaints that he bullied colleagues, the latest scandal to force out one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s top ministers.
The departure of the third senior minister over their personal conduct in the last six months will damage Sunak’s efforts to revive the governing Conservative Party’s fortunes and is a major embarrassment as he had entered Downing Street in October promising a government of integrity.
Raab’s resignation comes just two weeks ahead of English local council elections where Sunak’s Conservatives are predicted to fare badly.
It will also do little to improve the public perception of his government following the scandal-ridden tenure of Boris Johnson and the chaotic economic policies that brought down Liz Truss after less than two months.
The months-long investigation into Raab’s behaviour heard evidence from multiple government officials about complaints of bullying at three different departments.
Raab who requested the investigation in November following formal complaints about his behaviour by government officials, said he felt “duty bound” to accept the outcome of the inquiry but also staunchly defended his conduct.
He said the report, which has not yet been publicly released, had concluded he had not once sworn, shouted or physically intimidated anyone in four and a half years, and had dismissed all but two of the claims against him.
Raab said setting the threshold for bullying so low “set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government”.
This will “have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government – and ultimately the British people”, he said in his resignation letter to the prime minister.
Another of Sunak’s senior ministers, Gavin Williamson, was forced to resign in November after bullying allegations, and the prime minister sacked Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi in January after he was found to have broken the ministerial code over his openness about his tax affairs.
Sunak is facing his own investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog into his behaviour over whether he properly declared his wife’s shareholding in a childcare company which stands to benefit from new government policy.