Civil servants accuse Raab of 'gaslighting in his last gasps' as he quits over bullying probe

Officials say they are "relieved" report was not a "whitewash" as union calls for inquiry into ministerial bullying
Photo: REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo

Civil servants who worked with Dominic Raab have expressed relief at his at his resignation but accused the former justice secretary of "gaslighting" staff affected by his behaviour. 

An inquiry into allegations of bullying by Raab, which has now sparked a call for an inquiry into ministerial bullying, upheld two of eight formal complaints made by officials.

Civil servants told CSW this morning they were feeling “hugely relieved” at the outcome but also insulted at the tone of Raab's letter.

One former senior official who worked with Raab – and said last year that he had created a "culture of fear" at the Ministry of Justice – characterised his letter today as "gaslighting in his last gasps". 

They said they were "hugely relieved that the multiple voices have been heard, and that this wasn't another whitewash" but added that the resignation letter displayed an "utter lack of grace". 

Another civil servant, still serving at the MoJ, said that the implication in Raab's letter that a senior official had coercively removed his private office staff was utterly untrue. They said they were "appalled" by Raab's downplaying of the facr that "only two" of the complaints were upheld.

Reflecting on Raab's claim that the inquiry has had "a chilling effect" on ministers' ability to drive change, the ex-senior civil servant said: "At the heart of this is the quality of government and how the country is served. I completely disagree with Raab's comments.

“The chilling effect came from the culture of fear he created. This outcome has upheld the importance of civil servants' ability to speak truth to power, and being respected for doing so."

They added: "Perhaps Dominic Raab might take Tolley's report as some constructive '360 degree feedback', as he so clearly feels that the ability to take feedback is important."

Raab ‘not just one bad apple’

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said the government should launch an independent inquiry into ministerial bullying in the wake of the investigation.

Responding to the deputy prime minister’s resignation today, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “This investigation must be the seminal moment when the prime minister recognises that he has a duty to protect civil servants from the misconduct of ministers, and that the current system is neither fit for purpose nor commands the confidence of the very people it is supposed to protect.”

The FDA said a recent survey it carried out found that 70% of senior civil servants had no confidence in the system for dealing with complaints. The union said it also found that one in six senior civil servants had witnessed misconduct by ministers in the last 12 months, across more than 20 government departments.

“This demonstrates that Raab is not just one bad apple, and there is a wider problem with ministerial bullying than the prime minister wants to admit,” Penman said.

“Given the scale of complaints against Dominic Raab and the evidence we have produced of a wider problem, the prime minister must now launch an independent inquiry into ministerial bullying, along the lines of the inquiry conducted by Dame Laura Cox KC commissioned under similar circumstances in parliament,” Penman added.

Cox led an independent inquiry into alleged bullying and harassment into bullying and harassment by MPs and House of Commons staff, which found there was a culture of “deference and silence” that “actively sought to cover up abusive conduct”.

Penman said Raab’s resignation is “not a vindication of the current system, it’s a damning indictment of the inadequacy of a process that relies solely on the prime minister of the day to enforce standards”.

Penman said bullying “blights people’s lives and careers” and also “gets in the way of government working effectively and efficiently”.

Penman also criticised Raab’s “obviously reluctant tone and dismissal of the complaints”, which he said “says more about his conduct than any findings will”.

Raab slammed the inquiry into allegations he had bullied staff in his resignation letter and a subsequent comment piece for the Telegraph, calling it “flawed” and saying it “set a dangerous precedent”.

Prospect, the union for specialists in the civil service, said the inquiry “should be a wake-up call for ministers” .

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “There has been a toxic culture at the top of government for too long with civil servants and public trust paying the price for this chaos. The prime minister now needs to clean out the rest of the stables.

“These issues go to the heart of the anger and distrust many people feel towards the way our country runs. It is time for ministers to step up and to start restoring trust both for civil servants and the good of the country.

“This should be a wake-up call for ministers, that the way to deliver for the public is to respect and value public servants.”

“It is never easy to speak out about abuse from someone in power and I would like to pay tribute to those who have had the courage to do so,” Clancy added.

Additional reporting by Jess Bowie

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