View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Comment
21 April 2023

The fall of Dominic Raab is a tale of change in modern Britain

Workers are now less prepared to swallow anything that feels like disrespect or bullying.

By Andrew Marr

However angry Dominic Raab feels – and his resignation letter shows a strong sense of grievance – the Prime Minister, from his own point of view, did the right thing. Rishi Sunak smiles a lot but he is proving quite a ruthless leader.

Had he taken his deputy’s point of view about the allegations, and stuck by him, the consequences would have been lengthy, grim and distracting. I’m told there would have been legal challenges by former civil servants and protests by serving civil servants, possibly including resignations. The press would have dug into every aspect of every published allegation once the report is made public; interviews with aggrieved complainants would have gone viral. All of this would have delighted the opposition parties just ahead of important and difficult local elections for the Tories.

More important still, retaining Raab would have suggested that Sunak is ultimately a weak leader, the hostage of Tory right-wingers; more nervous about the views of his own MPs than of the general public.

[See also: Rishi Sunak pledge tracker: UK inflation remains over 10 per cent]

In other words, if I were Keir Starmer, I would have crossed my fingers for Raab’s survival. That would have not only reinforced an emerging Labour attack line on Sunak’s weakness – something you can already spot in the overnight opposition attacks on his “dithering” – but would have been a distraction from his attempt to present himself as a focused public servant, getting on with the job.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Having said all that, this was no easy decision for the Prime Minister. “Dom” Raab had stood by him all the way through the long and tortuous summer leadership battles, including when it wasn’t in his obvious best interests to do so. Raab had seemed prepared to fight for his future, briefing that he was “lawyering up” and was determined not to resign. The two men will no doubt have spoken overnight, weighing up the politics as well as Adam Tolley KC’s report; but Sunak will have hated making the call.

Raab hasn’t gone happily nor was his resignation letter exactly dripping with regret: “In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent. 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.”

[See also: Could Rishi Sunak be the Tories’ new Pitt the Younger?]

The departing Justice Secretary does not have a large parliamentary gang or clique of supporters or friends on the back benches, and his letter did not suggest he wants to cause trouble. But his words sound calculated to begin a debate on the right of politics, in particular, about work culture and whether it has become too offence-averse.

Bob Kerslake, the former head of the home civil service, told me this week that it was completely wrong to see this as a case of “snowflake” civil servants taking on a determined minister who wanted change; it was about a long pattern of unusual behaviour that would not have been acceptable inside the civil service at any time. But there is no doubt that work culture throughout Britain is changing fast. What was acceptable goading, “joshing” or rebuking even a decade ago would now lead to complaints and a disciplinary tribunal. 

In a tight labour market in which employees no longer have the material guarantees their parents took for granted, workers are not prepared to swallow anything that feels like disrespect or bullying. Far from being a narrow “Westminster bubble” story, then, the fall of Raab is a salutary tale of change in modern Britain.

[See also: A reckoning for Dominic Raab, and Rishi Sunak]

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Topics in this article : , , ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU