Viewers of Sky News might have noticed the tone of the coverage of Dominic Raab’s resignation evolve as the morning went on.
At the point of the announcement of his departure, all we had was Mr Raab’s resignation letter.
Bluntly, it appeared about as graceless as possible by the standards of most resignation letters.
The former deputy prime minister appeared to be picking a fight with just about everybody.
It confirmed the investigating lawyer had upheld two allegations of bullying, but Mr Raab went straight to the cases he had been absolved on.
There was a partial apology if people had felt intimidated but a robust defence, claiming he maintains the right to push officials hard.
Then the letter took aim at officials and Mr Raab spent a lot of time defending himself against allegations that weren’t made. The tone was angry. The mood bitter. It looked sour.
However, having now reviewed the Tolley report, it is clear this case is more nuanced than it first looks.
It will trigger arguments both ways and will feed into the national conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to workplace conduct – you can see why Downing Street took its time.
Adam Tolley did find instances when Raab was “involved in an abuse or misuse of power in a way that undermines or humiliates”.
The report states: “In particular, he went beyond what was reasonably necessary in order to give effect to his decision and introduced a punitive element. His conduct was bound to be experienced as undermining or humiliating by the affected individual, and it was so experienced. I infer that the DPM must have been aware of this effect; at the very least, he ought reasonably to have been so aware.”
However, some of the adverse judgements are more complex. Dominic Raab dispensed “unfair personal criticism” against civil servants and was “abrasive”. Yet this was in the context where he felt civil servants had not done their job properly and turned up inappropriately. Mr Tolley highlighted the fact the criticism wasn’t constructive – but is a minister not ever allowed to get angry at poor results from his team?
Mr Raab also alleges there was cultural resistance to his political agenda from some civil servants – while impossible to know if true, this will also complicate the reaction to this report.
On top of that, the investigation found there was a group of civil servants inside the Ministry of Justice effectively campaigning to get him removed. Tolley found that among them were people who had never met Mr Raab. This will fuel conspiracy theories that the civil service was actively working to dislodge a secretary of state.
People take different views on what represents acceptable workplace practices. It’s clear working with Dominic Raab was far from easy at times. Does it amount to bullying? Was there a campaign against him? There’s enough in that report to give both sides – Raab’s detractors and supporters – some succour. That’s why the tone of the coverage evolved.