FIRST Gavin Williamson resigned his UK Cabinet position over allegations of bullying, just two weeks into Rishi Sunak’s premiership. Then, three months later, Nadhim Zahawi, was sacked by the PM over breaching the ministerial code in relation to his tax affairs. Now, three months on another minister has departed under a cloud, once again over bullying claims. Not good.

Back in October, Mr Sunak, when he happily took over the reins of government, pledged to earn the trust of the public, pledging that his administration would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”.

It was meant to draw a line under and be a contrast to the duplicity of Boris Johnson’s premiership and the incompetence of Liz Truss’s. It must be remembered Priti Patel, the former Home Secretary, was found by an inquiry to have bullied staff but Mr Johnson, who as PM was the final arbiter on such matters, decided to reject its findings.

Dominic Raab was arguably Mr Sunak’s strongest supporter for the party leadership during the 2022 leadership contest and, by resigning as Justice Secretary, has spared his boss the unpleasant decision to sack his loyal deputy.

READ MORE: Dominic Raab quits as deputy PM with bitter attack on bullying inquiry

It was suggested the PM spent the night agonising over whether to dismiss his key ally and accepted Mr Raab’s resignation this morning with “great sadness”. Downing Street sources insisted Mr Sunak didn’t ask his close colleague to resign.

In his report published earlier today, Adam Tolley KC concluded Mr Raab had engaged in an “abuse or misuse of power” that “undermines or humiliates” while he was Foreign Secretary.

The minister’s conduct in the department had a “significant adverse effect” on one colleague and he was also found to have been “intimidating” to staff by criticising “utterly useless” work while he was Justice Secretary.

While the Surrey MP has gone - much to the relief of some civil servants - he has not gone quietly.

He lashed out at the “Kafkaesque saga” and accused “committed officials” of trying to force him out of the Cabinet.

In his letter of resignation he highlighted how Mr Tolley had “dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me”. He described these two adverse findings as “flawed,” warning that “setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government”.

Mr Raab said he was “genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt, as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought to the Ministry of Justice,” but argued this was what the “public expect of ministers working on their behalf”.

The Herald: Our cartoonist Camley's take on Raab reportOur cartoonist Camley's take on Raab report (Image: free)

Yet there is a clear line between being a hard, demanding taskmaster and a bully, who demeans the people around him. The ex-DPM is adjudged to have crossed it.

Mr Raab went further, stressing how “spurious complaints against ministers” would have a “chilling effect” on those driving change within government and called for an independent review into the “systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media in breach of the rules of the inquiry and the Civil Service Code of Conduct, and the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated Private Secretaries from my Ministry of Justice Private Office, in October of last year”.

However, for some within and outwith Westminster the bad ending for Mr Raab was expected, not least because the matter supposedly involved at least two dozen complainants and spread over his time as Foreign Secretary, Brexit Secretary and during his first stint in charge of the Ministry of Justice.

It will be interesting to see if Mr Raab affords himself the right to a full Commons resignation statement. There’s a good chance he won’t in order to spare Mr Sunak any further embarrassment; however strong he believes his defence is, airing it in a set-piece speech would simply create more unnecessary headlines.

The Liberal Democrats have piled in demanding Mr Raab having resigned his Cabinet role should now resign his Surrey seat.

READ MORE: Dominic Raab and the bullying culture of Westminster

This comes as no surprise as Sir Ed Davey and his team have been eagerly targeting the ex-minister’s Esher and Walton constituency for many years. The Conservative majority is just 2,743, an achievable target in the current circumstances.

However, there is no way Tory HQ would succumb to the yellow peril’s calls, particularly when it’s hunkering down in readiness for the expected battering in the May local elections in England.

What with the travails of the SNP in Scotland and the travails of the Tories in England, Sir Keir Starmer might regard himself as a lucky party leader.

However, politics is never certain and although the political cycle might be favouring the Labour knight at present, a few months down the road, things may be very different.

In the end, all prime ministers, governments and parties are judged on their own judgement and performance as Humza Yousaf is starkly finding out in quick time.

While the spotlight has fallen on Mr Raab’s judgement, the fact the PM trusted him so completely to make him his deputy, will, for many, raise serious questions about Mr Sunak’s own judgement. He now has to find a replacement for his closest of chums.

If things were not hard enough for the embattled Tory leader, his road to an improbable General Election victory next year just got a little steeper.