RISHI Sunak allowed his deputy to resign and launch a blistering attack on civil servants yesterday despite a report confirming years of misconduct.

Dominic Raab lashed out in both his resignation letter and a series of media interviews after a five-month investigation found he had been “intimidating” and “aggressive” to staff.

Adam Tolley KC delivered his 47-page report to the Prime Minister on Thursday morning, but Mr Sunak allowed almost 24 hours to pass before Mr Raab finally left the government.

It let Mr Raab get his defence in early, before Mr Tolley’s findings were published, and gave him the chance to portray himself as a victim of an unjust process and “activist” officials.

Mr Raab stood down as deputy PM and Justice Secretary shortly before 10am and took a bitter swipe at the bullying probe that forced him out.

“In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent,” he said in his resignation letter, warning it would “encourage spurious complaints against ministers”.

In his reply, Mr Sunak lavished praise on his loyal supporter in the Tory leadership, and said he felt “great sadness” at his departure.

He said Mr Raab should be “extremely proud” of his achievements, and commended his “collegiate” way of working when he briefly became acting PM during the Covid pandemic.

He acknowledged Mr Raab had effectively been found guilty of bullying, but in an understated way that appeared to give him credit for stepping down. 

“As you say, you had - rightly - undertaken to resign if the report made any finding of bullying whatsoever. You have kept your word,” Mr Sunak told him

And rather than criticise Mr Raab’s conduct, Mr Sunak criticised the way the complaints against him had been handled, saying "shortcomings" had "negatively affected" all involved.

Mr Sunak moved two close allies to fill Mr Raab’s twin roles.

Former Tory party chair Oliver Dowden, who ran Mr Sunak’s Tory leadership campaign last summer, is the new Deputy PM.

While Alex Chalk KC, a contemporary of Mr Sunak at the elite private school Winchester College, was promoted to Justice Secretary.

Mr Tolley examined eight complaints about Mr Raab about his time as Brexit Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and his first period as Justice Secretary.

Mr Raab described his own style as “inquisitorial, direct, impatient and fastidious”.

Mr Tolley did not call Mr Raab a bully, but concluded his behaviour towards civil servants could be abrasive, intimidating, aggressive, and insulting.

He also rejected some of Mr Raab’s denials and defences, preferring the evidence of others.

He found that while Foreign Secretary Mr Raab “acted in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct in the context of a work meeting”.  

This “involved an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates”.  

Mr Raab also referred to the Civil Service Code in a way that staff understood as a “threat”. 

Mr Tolley praised the “courage” of the Ministry of Justice officials whose formal complaint last November kickstarted the investigation.

He found that while Justice Secretary Mr Raab acted “in a manner which was intimidating, in the sense of going 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 (whether or not as a matter of substance any criticism was justified).  

“By way of example, he complained about the absence of what he referred to as ‘basic information’ or ‘the basics’, about ‘obstructiveness’ on the part of officials whom he perceived to be resistant to his policies, and described some work as ‘utterly useless’ and ‘woeful’.”

Mr Tolley said some of the MoJ complainers suffered “stress and anxiety, the taking of special unpaid leave, and in one case a period of stress-related sick leave”. 

Mr Raab was twice warned about his tone by the ministry’s top official, then denied the conversations had taken place. 

However since the investigation he had curbed his “abrasive” style and been well behaved.

Before the report appeared, the Daily Telegraph ran an article by Mr Raab in which he said the “Kafkaesque saga I endured was shorn of the safeguards most people enjoy”, adding the nation would “pay the price” if the threshold for bullying in government had been lowered.

He later told BBC News: “What you’ve got is the risk here that a very small minority of very activist civil servants, with a passive-aggressive culture of the civil service, who don’t like some of the reforms – whether it’s Brexit, whether it’s parole reform, whether it’s human rights reform – effectively trying to block government. That’s not on, that’s not democratic.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior Whitehall staff, said activist officials were “just the latest conspiracy" Mr Raab had “concocted" as a diversion from  the criticism of his conduct.

He told the BBC: “Rishi Sunak only launched the inquiry because Raab asked him to, he allowed Raab to resign and undermine the investigation before publishing the evidence.

"Now the prime minister is sitting back whilst his former deputy peddles dangerous conspiracy theories that undermine the impartiality and integrity of the civil service.

“As prime minister and minister for the civil service, Rishi Sunak has a duty under the Ministerial Code to defend the impartiality of the service.

"He now needs to do that and stop giving his former ally a free hand."

Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Sunak had shown a “double weakness” in appointing Mr Raab in the first place, despite concerns over his character, and then failing to sack him.

UK Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, whose party came just 2,743 voters behind Mr Raab in his Esher and Walton seat in 2019, said he was unfit to remain an MP and let voters replace him in a byelection. 

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman added: "There are still huge questions for the Tories to answer about what Rishi Sunak knew about the allegations against Dominic Raab when he appointed him Deputy Prime Minister. If he knew his right-hand man was a bully, then he is also responsible for his behaviour - voters deserve to know.”