The Truth About Raab’s “Super-Uptight” Formatting Rules mdi-fullscreen

Another day, another attempt by a cabal of passive-aggressive civil servants to get Dominic Raab sacked. The latest accusation, via Playbook, is that Dominic Raab was “super uptight” about the formatting of Ministerial Submissions during his time at the Foreign Office.

He was said to dismiss submissions that were not formatted how he liked them… Raab even created a grading regime for submissions, and civil service bosses would be held responsible if their team received regular low grades. At one point three directors-general found themselves working on a single submission for the best part of a week to ensure Raab wouldn’t just bin it. Officials said they felt the department had become cowed and overworked in a bid to manage the minister’s ego rather than enact meaningful change.

Even without context, this allegation seems a ludicrous complaint with which to try and ruin a ministerial career…

Guido has managed to track down a Whitehall official familiar with Raab’s preferences for Ministerial Submissions, who paints a more reasonable explanation behind what the Deputy PM wanted and why.

The main demand from Raab’s template was to ensure submissions clearly spelt out what decisions were required and which provided relevant options, information and advice – not, as those with axes to grind are briefing, an unnecessary obsession with spelling and formatting. These so-called demanding requirements included:

  • The submission contain all relevant facts allowing Raab to make a decision
    • Key information should not be buried in annexes (which should be used for supporting documents and not for advice)
  • Maximum four pages
    • Given the level of demand on the Secretary of State’s time, information should be kept concise (otherwise every desk would send novel-length submissions)
  • Have clear recommendations so it’s clear what ministers are being asked to decide
  • Give ministers a clear choice, to avoid situations where ministers weren’t actually permitted to decide what foreign policy should be
  • Each submission needs to be signed off by a senior civil servant, who would take responsibility for the quality of work

The spelling requirement, therefore, was more a canary in a coal mine than an end in itself. If the spelling was wrong, it was likely not enough attention had been given to the proposals themselves.

Forcing one senior civil service to put their name to the work assigned responsibility to an individual. It also avoided the document  being sent round several desks and resulting in the proposal looking like a “Frankenstein’s monster”. 

A Whitehall official who supports Raab says:

Some civil servants may have resented the standards expected of them, some may have felt Raab was too process-driven and not flexible enough, but it’s hard not to conclude that some civil servants involved simply are trying to remove a minister they didn’t like working for by deliberate and misleading leaks to the media

Let’s see what nonsense allegations tomorrow brings…

mdi-tag-outline Bullying
mdi-account-multiple-outline Dominic Raab
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