On Friday, British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned from the government following an independent investigation into allegations that he harassed colleagues. This is the latest scandal to force one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's top ministers out of office.
The loss of the third senior minister in the last six months due to their conduct will damage Sunak's efforts to revive the fortunes of the governing Conservative Party and is a significant embarrassment, as he entered Downing Street in October promising an honest government.
Raab resigned in a letter to the prime minister before the report was made public. His departure is a setback for Sunak just two weeks before local council elections in England, where his Conservatives are expected to perform poorly.
"I requested the investigation and agreed to resign if it found any evidence of bullying," Raab wrote in his resignation letter. "I believe it is important to keep my word."
In a response letter, Sunak stated that he accepted Raab's resignation with great sorrow but that minister must uphold the highest standards.
Raab possessed no formal authority as deputy prime minister, but he stood in for the prime minister when he was absent from parliament or unable to function. However, he was a close political ally of Sunak and aided in the commencement of his campaign for the position of prime minister last summer.
After the scandal-ridden tenure of Boris Johnson and the chaotic economic policies that brought down Liz Truss in less than two months, the resignation will do little to enhance the public's perception of his government.
During the five-month investigation into Raab's behavior, multiple government officials testified about abuse complaints in three departments.
Raab acted in a manner that was "intimidating" and "persistently aggressive" during his tenure at the Foreign Office, according to an independent report authored by attorney Adam Tolley.
He went "further than was necessary or appropriate in delivering critical feedback and also insulting, in the sense of making unconstructive critical comments about the quality of work done" while working for the Ministry of Justice.
"(Raab) has been able to regulate this level of 'abrasiveness' since the announcement of the investigation," wrote Tolley. He should have altered his strategy sooner.
Raab requested the investigation in November after government officials filed formal complaints about his conduct. He stated that he felt "duty-bound" to accept the outcome of the investigation but vehemently defended his behavior.
He stated that the report concluded he had never cursed, yelled, or physically intimidated anyone in the past four and a half years and dismissed all but two of the allegations against him.
Raab apologized for any unintended stress or offense caused but stated that the decision to establish such a low threshold for bullying "set a dangerous precedent" for the conduct of the government.
This will "chill those driving change on behalf of your government – and ultimately the British people," he wrote.
Raab referred to the two instances in which he was found to have been bullied: one at the Foreign Office in relation to a senior diplomat's handling of the Brexit negotiations over Gibraltar and another during his time at the Ministry of Justice from 2021 to 2022.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, accused Sunak of "weakness" for allowing his deputy to resign instead of firing him.
Another of Sunak's senior ministers, Gavin Williamson, resigned in November amid allegations of intimidation. In January, the prime minister fired Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi for violating the ministerial code by disclosing his tax affairs.
Sunak is being investigated by the commission for parliamentary standards regarding whether he properly disclosed his wife's shareholding in a childcare company that stands to benefit from a new government policy.