Dominic Raab has said there is an “incredibly strong team spirit” behind Boris Johnson as he prepares to deputise for the prime minister.
The prime minister’s condition has worsened after his symptoms failed to clear after a week’s self-isolation, and Raab is due to take on responsibilities in his absence.
How Raab reacted
Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, said tonight: “The government’s business will continue.
“The prime minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas’ hospital, and the focus of the government will continue to be on making sure that the prime minister’s direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward.”
He added: “There’s an incredibly strong team spirit behind the prime minister, and making sure that we get all of the plans the prime minister’s instructed us to deliver, to get them implemented as soon as possible.
“And that’s the way it will bring the whole country through the coronavirus challenge that we face right now.”
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Deputising for the prime minister
In the British government, the first secretary of state can function as a deputy prime minister but the position’s powers vary based on how the prime minister grants them responsibilities.
The post does not always exist – it is up to the sitting prime minister to decide if they want one.
Unlike the US, which sets out how the president would be succeeded if incapacitated, the UK’s line of succession is much less clear.
The British government has no requirement for the prime minister to have a deputy akin to the American vice president.
A spokesperson for Downing Street said tonight: “Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital.
“The PM has asked foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is the first secretary of state, to deputise for him where necessary.”
The Times has reported that Johnson asked for Raab to deputise after it became apparent he would have to move into intensive care.
Who is Dominic Raab?
Former government lawyer Raab was elected to represent the Esher and Walton constituency in Parliament in 2010, when David Cameron became prime minister.
Born to a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia who fled the Nazis in 1938, Raab grew up in Buckinghamshire and studied law at Oxford University.
He was previously Brexit secretary for ex-prime minister Theresa May, nominally responsible for negotiations to leave the European Union (EU).
A committed supporter of leaving the EU, he quit in November 2018 in opposition to May’s Brexit plan before standing for leadership of the Conservative Party against Johnson when May resigned as prime minister last year.
The Conservative leadership race was won by Johnson, who then automatically became prime minister.
But he went on to appoint Raab as foreign secretary – overseeing the Foreign Office, which Raab had worked for as a lawyer – and first secretary of state.
Raab led the British response to the death of Harry Dunn, who died in a car crash near an American base in England last year.
There were calls to extradite the American woman accused of being involved in the collision, but the US brought her home and claimed diplomatic immunity for her. Anne Sacoolas is the wife of an American who worked at the base.
Raab has spent most of the coronavirus crisis trying to arrange for British nationals stranded abroad amid closing borders and flight cancellations to come home.
Raab is husband to Erika and the father of two boys.