Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Unfair behavior by ministers damages government policy-making, meaning officials may be afraid to offer candid advice, a former senior adviser to Dominic Raab has said.
Raab is being investigated in three departments on eight separate complaints. Independent investigator Adam Tolley KC’s investigation into his behavior is expected to be completed within the next month. The investigation will only establish “the specific facts” surrounding the allegations, which Rishi Sunak will then rule on.
Moazzam Malik, a former director-general of the Foreign Office, wrote for the Guardian that Raab had “gained a reputation for being extremely demanding, bordering on aggression,” and said that “among staff there was a widespread awareness of his behavior.” exist.
But he said Raab is far from the only minister whose behavior has meant officials are learning to curry favor with selective advice. Malik said Liz Truss, as secretary of state, was “notorious for picking and choosing who she wanted to hear from” and “disagreement led to expulsion.”
“Different people would fall in and out of favor. Officials at the Department of International Trade spoke of destroying the Department’s ability to function effectively,” he wrote.
He said it ended up having a particular impact on the political decision-making process. “When ministers misbehave, it’s usually because they don’t like what they’re being told – and choose to take it out on the messenger,” he wrote. “In departments like the Foreign Office and the Home Office, the incentive is to agree with the minister rather than challenge him. It’s no wonder Whitehall’s political processes look damaged.”
Raab previously said he was “confident in my conduct in a professional manner throughout his reign”. He added: “I think the lion’s share of the time, the vast majority of cases and the time that we spend together, officials and ministers work together very effectively.”
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Malik, now an honorary fellow at Hertford College, Oxford University, said he had spent 25 years as a civil servant, with bad behavior evident from Labor ministers too. He said it was “deeply corrosive” when bosses were unwilling to confront misconduct by junior ministers or special advisers.
“Some on the receiving end became ill, suffered from anxiety at work, needed psychological support, and many had to be redeployed to other duties to get them out of harm’s way,” he wrote.
Malik said he had doubts about the permanent secretaries or cabinet secretary’s abilities to deal with bad behavior by ministers and said they had “few tools other than the silent word”.
“In my experience, cabinet secretaries are rarely interested or able to help. The idea that the Prime Minister could take a complaint seriously is far-fetched – even ridiculous given Boris Johnson’s dismissal of the bullying findings against Priti Patel,” he wrote.
Malik said the investigation into Raab should lead to new rules and mechanisms. “If anything good can come of the Raab episode, regardless of Tolley’s findings, it is this: practical and effective rules and mechanisms to stop ministerial misconduct and ensure the integrity of Britain’s ability to make sound policies,” he wrote.
Sunak is asked to demand that his independent ethics adviser deliver a verdict on whether Raab has breached the ministerial code once the report is finalized.
Now the plaintiffs and witnesses and Raab himself have testified. Sunak must determine whether Raab’s behavior constitutes bullying or refer the case to his independent adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, to rule in accordance with the Ministerial Code.