This past week Adam Tolley KC published the findings of his investigation into Dominic Raab MP. The report was commissioned by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak to investigate accusations of bullying and aggressive behaviour levelled against Raab whilst he was Brexit Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Justice Secretary. Tolley found that a description of bullying had been met whilst Raab was Foreign Secretary and Justice Secretary, however only two claims were upheld against him. Raab has subsequently resigned from the Government, but this incident has opened a debate about where high expectations and a rigorous work ethic end and bullying, undue pressure, and aggressive behaviour begin.
I have, and indeed continue to, really wrestle with this issue. I don’t think it is unreasonable to have high expectations of the Civil Service, given that they are responsible for enacting the policies of an elected government. Whilst they should advise ministers as to the practicalities of a policy and its implementation, I do not think they should put unnecessary objects in the way or drag their heels with implementation due to personal or political reservations. The Civil Service is after all, non-political.
This being said, I do not think that there is ever an excuse for bullying or aggressive behaviour, and I certainly do not think that you get the best out of people through guilt or threats. Nevertheless, I think that the problem is deeper, much deeper.
We know as followers of Jesus and those whose lives have been transformed by the Gospel that the fundamental problem is not without, but within. Indeed, we see in Matthew 15:18-19, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
No amount of anti-bullying courses or workplace policy can deal with sin, only Jesus Christ and Him crucified can deal with that. We are sinners saved by grace who moment by moment are being conformed more and more into the image of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So how does this all apply to the Dominic Raab situation and to politics and public life more generally? Well, I think there are several applications we can make. Firstly, I think is vital that as Christians we are engaging in and involved in politics and public life. Whether voting, writing to councillors, MPs or Peers, or standing for local or national office, as Christians we are called to engage and to live out our faith. We abandon the public square at our peril, how can light shine in darkness if it is absent from the room?
As we engage we do so lovingly, truthfully, with integrity and as those whose speech is full of grace and seasoned with salt. In doing so, we point to Jesus. Don’t hear what I’m not saying, we are not perfect and won’t be sinless until Christ returns, but we have the Spirit of the Living God within us, and we should be different to those who don’t know Jesus around us.
So, we can model civility and integrity and live as those who place healthy boundaries on the amount of hope we put into politics. We can also call on those in positions of power to do the same. I think that a major problem with the way that Dominic Raab worked was the sheer number of hours he operated. If sources are to be believed then he worked from 7:30am to 22:00 Monday to Friday, with constituency work on Friday and more over the weekend. Without going down a rabbit hole of work/rest theology, this pattern of work is clearly not healthy or life-giving.
Who am I to tell a cabinet minister how much to work? Well, as a follower of Jesus and one who believes that the Bible is the supreme authority on all matters of belief and behaviour, it is clear that God’s pattern for work and rest is different to that of Mr Raab, and probably a great deal of people in politics and public life. God’s pattern for human flourishing is good for all His creatures, we are all made in the image of God, even if some are in rebellion to God. I think that as Christians we should have realistic expectations of our politicians, and both encourage and lovingly challenge them. As someone who used to work for an MP, I can tell you that polite correspondence from the public is few and far between. What an impact it could make if Christians in the UK engaged with politicians in a godly and honouring way.
We cannot control the behaviour of politicians or civil servants, but as Christians we can model a godly way of conducting oneself and encourage integrity. And, hopefully, we can point them to Jesus, the only one who can truly deal with the problem of the human heart.