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

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-timer 17 November 2022 @ 16:00 17 Nov 2022 @ 16:00 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
The Motivation Of The Ex-Mandarin’s Ministerial Undermining

After finally toppling Boris Johnson, ex-Foreign Office mandarin Sir Simon McDonald has once again risen from dull anonymity to lead the charge against Dominic Raab. On Monday Sir Simon did a whole media round attacking Raab, accusing him without specifics of being intimidating and scaring junior staff members.

It was language, it was tone, he would be very curt with people. And he did this in front of a lot of other people

Doesn’t sound very bad at all. Besides his anti-Tory bias, why else might Sir Simon have chosen this topic to resurface for airtime? Might it have anything to do with his new book, released today?

Guido searched via Google Books for how many references Sir Simon makes to his botched handling of the Harry Dunn affair: Zero.

mdi-timer 16 November 2022 @ 10:56 16 Nov 2022 @ 10:56 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Raab Requests Investigation into Bullying Allegations

Dominic Raab has written to Rishi requesting an independent investigation into two formal complaints made against him. He says he looks forward “to addressing these complaints, and continuing to serve as Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary, and Lord Chancellor.”

Two hours before PMQs…
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Anonymous Anti-Raab Briefers Should Put Up or Shut Up

Media headlines continue burbling about Dominic Raab this morning as yet more anonymous allegations are briefed to the press by disgruntled civil servants.

Process stories are running on whether Simon Case was told anything by senior officials; whether Simon McDonald warned Raab about his behaviour during his time as Foreign Secretary; and whether a senior FCDO official suggested junior staff should have their hands held by their seniors in meetings with him. All very interesting to a scalp-hungry Lobby, all very vague. 

Guido observes this is the key difference between Raab and Gavin Williamson. With Williamson there were mounting specific allegations; against Wendy Morton, and against an MP in financial trouble he threatened. The accusations were made by MPs with personal experience, speaking on the record.

With Raab we’ve had just one actual allegation – that he angrily threw a Pret tomato into a paper bag. It was laughable. Many in Westminster sympathetic to Raab suspect his only crime was telling members of the thin-skinned, work-shy blob to pull their fingers out and do their job.

One senior ex-official at the Ministry of Justice, who served under Raab, has offered this alternative briefing to Guido in his defence:

I worked with Dominic Raab at the MoJ as an official. He was an abrasive arse much of the time. But that was and is much better than a lot of people working there deserved.

“The key thing is that he was abrasive. But that was and is exactly what that clusterf**k of a department required.

I’m all in favour of complaints about bullying of whatever scale being properly investigated – as long as complaints about idle, useless civil servants are subjected to the same process.”

Another former government source points out that for all Simon McDonald’s media showboating about Raab, he is nakedly a party political actor with many axes to grind (he is a former perm sec at the Foreign Office). As Harry Cole points out, it’s also distasteful to see McDonald attempt to cast himself as an expert in leadership “when his handling of the Harry Dunn affair was a disaster from start to finish.”

When it comes to Labour’s political point-scoring, they’re going to be amazed to hear how Gordon Brown treated his No. 10 staff…

mdi-timer 15 November 2022 @ 11:15 15 Nov 2022 @ 11:15 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Rishi Sticks by Raab Despite Harrowing Tomato Allegations

Speaking to the G20 Lobby press pack, Rishi Sunak has said he’s sticking by Dominic Raab, two days after harrowing allegations emerged that the Deputy Prime Minister once removed tomatoes from his Pret salad and threw them into a bag “making a loud noise,” in front of civil servants. An act so debilitating for witnesses that one felt the need to leak it to the Sun…

Speaking in Bali, Rishi Sunak told the press that he “doesn’t recognise that characterisation of Dominic and I’m not aware of any formal complaints about him.”

In the latest attempt by a scalp-addicted Lobby to engineer the resignation of Raab, ITV reported this morning that 40% of Foreign Office civil servants felt they had been bullied by someone while Raab was Secretary of State. Difficult to bully staff while relaxing on a sun lounger…

After trying and failing to get Braverman sacked, and succeeding with Williamson, hacks are behaving like smack addicts, who after months of access to the good stuff are craving just one more hit from a Raab resignation. It’s all pretty desperate. Frankly, the narrative only serves to make overpaid, underworked civil servants look like babies who can’t handle a high-pressure work environment…

mdi-timer 14 November 2022 @ 12:34 14 Nov 2022 @ 12:34 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Flashback: When Wendy Morton Resigned Over Bullying Allegations…

Given the Lobby has the attention span of an ADHD child after a bag of Haribo, Suella Braverman must be thanking her lucky stars that Gavin Williamson was around to take the resignation pressure off her.

This weekend saw an escalation of media scrutiny after the Mail on Sunday and Sunday Times both received convenient leaks of the ‘abusive’ texts he sent to the then-chief whip Wendy Morton. Rishi and Gavin’s Cabinet Office boss Oliver Dowden have both condemned his language.

A co-conspirator with a long memory has been in touch, however, to relay a fascinating 2006 story from the Northern Echo, in which a spritely and youthful Cllr Morton was one of five Tory councillors accused of bullying senior officers. Allegations that saw Morton quit her seat alongside her husband:

Mrs Morton, who represented Bolton Castle ward and will stand for the Conservatives in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, at the next General Election, was one of five councillors accused of bullying two officers amid claims that a new political group, the Independent Coalition for Richmondshire (ICR), was formed illegally.

It was then claimed by one of the ICR group councillors that Wendy had “failed to apologise to the officer” alleged to have been bullied.

The five councillors, including Wendy, were found guilty of bullying by a council investigation, but were later cleared by the Standards Board for England. Perhaps a lesson in hastily jumping to conclusions and demanding resignations…

mdi-timer 7 November 2022 @ 11:14 7 Nov 2022 @ 11:14 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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