Boris Johnson has 'deputised' Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab takes the reins: Foreign Secretary is called on to ‘deputise for’ stricken PM Boris Johnson while he is in intensive care

  • Boris Johnson ‘deputised’ Dominic Raab as he entered intensive care tonight
  • Mr Johnson has not resigned and formally remains in post as the Prime Minister   
  • Not immediately clear what would happen if Mr Raab too became incapacitated
  • UK does not have a formal system of succession like other countries, such as US

In a Twitter video posted on Friday from quarantine in No11, where he has been in self-isolation, an exhausted-looking Mr Johnson revealed he was still suffering from a high temperature

Boris Johnson tonight effectively handed the reins of government to Dominic Raab as he battles coronavirus in intensive care.

Downing Street said the PM had ‘deputised’ the Foreign Secretary – who as First Secretary of State is officially the second highest ranking minister – before his condition became more serious.

However, Mr Johnson has not resigned and so continues to be the formal leader of the government.  

The UK does not have a written constitution and the chain of command is largely based on convention. 

Since the end of the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition in 2015 there has not been a deputy PM.   

Instead Mr Cameron, Theresa May and now Mr Johnson appointed First Secretaries of State to denote who was second in line.  

Downing Street is said to have drawn up plans to ensure the continuation of government in all circumstances but details have not been divulged publicly. 

It is not immediately clear what would happen if Mr Raab also became incapacitated, with the UK not having a formal system of succession like other countries, for example the US. 

Mr Raab’s status as the person waiting in the wings reportedly sparked furious rows within the government a fortnight ago, with other ministers adamant Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, should be the one to take over.  

But Number 10 is likely to face intense pressure in the coming days to set out exactly what would happen if Mr Johnson and other senior ministers can no longer work.

If Mr Johnson could no longer carry on in post and resigned, the Cabinet would in the first instance choose a successor.

They would need to carry the support of the Conservative MPs – although it is unlikely anyone would force a leadership contest at a time of massive crisis.   

The Prime Minster ‘deputised’ Dominic Raab as he was admitted to intensive care tonight.

Police officers are seen today outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London, a short distance from Downing Street, after Mr Johnson was admitted for tests on Sunday

Dominic Raab, a karate black belt, is married without any children to Erika (together), a Brazilian-born marketing executive

Dominic Raab: Karate black belt and relative Cabinet novice   

The MP for Esher and Walton worked as an in-house lawyer for the Foreign Office in 2000, before returning to the department in Boris Johnson’s post-election reshuffle.

The former grammar school boy, born to a Czech Jewish father who fled the Nazis in 1938 to Britain as a refugee before the Second World War, helped bring war criminals to justice in The Hague during his first stint in the Foreign Office.

Mr Raab is a karate black belt and former boxing blue at Oxford University in 1995. The 45-year-old is married without any children to Erika, a Brazilian-born marketing executive who was wheeled out for photoshoots in his leadership campaign. 

He has described how his father Peter fled the Nazis and came to Britain aged six.

His father learned English, worked for M&S as a food manager and met his mother Jean, who was from Bromley, Kent. He died when Dominic was 12 after losing his battle with cancer. 

The appointment to Foreign Secretary was a major promotion for Mr Raab, who up to then had just four months experience in the Cabinet after a stint as Brexit Secretary last year.   

Last summer he stood in the Tory leadership race on a hardcore Brexiteer ticket even harder than Mr Johnson. But after being knocked out he quickly backed his former rival and supported him in his campaign.

At the weekend it was revealed that two of the most senior Ministers leading the Government response to the coronavirus crisis are locked in battle over when to lift the economically devastating lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has made ‘robust’ representations to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, arguing that unless a path is mapped now for a swift return to normal economic activity it could cause lasting damage to the country.

Government critics of Mr Hancock argue his ‘careerist’ fear of being personally blamed for a collapse in the NHS is blinding him to the dangers of a protracted lockdown.

But allies of Mr Hancock hit back, saying: ‘He is just doing his job, which is to protect the NHS.’

One MP suggested that the PM was too keen to emulate his hero, Winston Churchill and should rest.

But Downing Street described last night’s shock move as a ‘precautionary step’, insisting that he continued to lead the Government, and remained in touch with ministers and senior officials.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick stressed it was not an emergency admission and that he expected him to be back in Downing Street ‘shortly’.

‘He’s been working extremely hard leading the Government and being constantly updated,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

‘That’s going to continue.

‘Obviously today he’s in hospital having the tests but he will continue to be kept informed as to what’s happening and to be in charge of the Government.

‘I’m sure this is very frustrating for him, for somebody like Boris who wants to be hands on running the Government from the front, but nonetheless he’s still very much in charge of the Government.’ 

In a Twitter video posted on Friday from quarantine in No11, where he has been in self-isolation, an exhausted-looking Mr Johnson revealed he was still suffering from a high temperature.

Experts say there is a risk of pneumonia when a temperature lasts more than a week. There have been claims Mr Johnson has been coughing heavily during conference calls.      


Downing Street said Dominic Raab (pictured right) will take over if the PM is incapacitated but there have been claims some ministers have pushed for Michael Gove to be given the job

How are ministers ranked? 

 1. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister

2. Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State

3. Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer

4. Priti Patel, Home Secretary

5. Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

6. Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary

7. Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary

8. Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

9. Alok Sharma, Business Secretary

10. Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary

11. Therese Coffey, Work and Pensions Secretary

12. Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

13. George Eustice, Environment Secretary

14. Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary

15. Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary

16. Alister Jack, Scotland Secretary

17. Simon Hart, Wales Secretary

18. Baroness Evans, Leader of the House of Lords

19. Oliver Dowden, Culture Secretary

20. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, International Development Secretary

21. Amanda Milling, Minister without Portfolio (Conservative Party chairwoman)

The UK has four great offices of state: Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. 

But beyond that there is no public plan on the line of succession should the PM be struck down. 

The US is one of a number of countries which has such a plan: If the President cannot work, the Vice President takes over and so on down a long list of government figures. 

The US also has a ‘designated survivor’ – someone in the line of succession who is told to stay away from major events like inaugurations and State of the Union Addresses in case something bad happens and they can then step in as commander in chief.    

Successive prime ministers have resisted calls to formally set out succession plans because of the message they fear it would convey to the public and because of the damage it could do to their political standing. 

But there have been repeated attempts by backbench MPs to pass a law formalising the succession issue.

Mr Raab, Mr Gove, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are widely seen as the most important ministers in the government at the moment in terms of combating coronavirus. 

Each chairs a committee coordinating different parts of the government’s response to the crisis. 

Mr Gove’s is focused on public sector preparedness, Mr Hancock’s is focused on NHS capacity, Mr Raab’s deals with the overseas response and Mr Sunak’s looks at the economy.  

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