- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hospitalized and is in intensive care after experiencing “persistent symptoms” of the coronavirus.
- As first secretary of state, Dominic Raab will stand in for the prime minister while Johnson is in the hospital.
- Raab has caused controversy with his political views and comments about women.
- The news that Raab would deputize for Johnson was received like “a cup of cold sick” by his cabinet rivals, according to one report.
- Colleagues believe he lacks the emotional intelligence required for the role, with some rivals keen to assume his position as Johnson’s deputy.
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The news that Boris Johnson has been hospitalized and is in intensive care for the coronavirus has led to speculation about what would happen if the UK prime minister became too ill to remain in his job.
Downing Street has insisted that the prime minister will remain in charge of the government while in the hospital.
However, Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary, will stand in for him at an emergency UK government meeting on the coronavirus Monday morning.
Raab has served in Johnson’s government since he became prime minister in July and holds the honorary title of “first secretary of state.”
It is this secondary position that means he will stand in for the prime minister in the event of serious illness and could ultimately replace him.
So who is Raab, and could he end up as Britain’s next prime minister?
A Brexit hard-liner who campaigned to leave the EU
Raab is a vocal Brexiteer and close ally of the prime minister. Both men supported “Vote Leave,” the official Brexit campaign, before the referendum in 2016.
Raab was first elected to Parliament in 2010 after previously training as a solicitor.
He fulfilled some junior ministerial roles in former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government before he was promoted to her Cabinet as Brexit secretary in July 2018.
However, Raab didn’t last long in the job, holding the role for only a few months before resigning in protest over what he saw as May’s insufficient Brexit policy.
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” Raab wrote to May. “This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust.”
In resigning, he joined Johnson, who had also stepped down from May’s Cabinet for the House of Commons’ backbenches just months earlier.
A controversial figure who has enemies inside the government
The news that Raab would stand in for Johnson should he become too ill, which was confirmed in The Times by his aides, was received like “a cup of cold sick” by his cabinet rivals, according to Katy Balls, Spectator magazine’s deputy political editor.
Some colleagues believe he lacks emotional intelligence and fear he would struggle to rise to the occasion if he were forced to step into Johnson’s shoes, Balls wrote.
Raab has occasionally caused controversy over his hard-line views. In 2011, he said “feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots” in the UK.
“From the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal,”he added. “Men work longer hours, die earlier, but retire later than women.”
Raab stood by that position last year, saying in a BBC interview that it was “really important that in the debate on equality we have a consistency and not double standards and hypocrisy.”
In response to Raab’s comments, Labour Member of Parliament Jess Phillips told the channel: “Everybody in Westminster knows that Dominic Raab does not have the women in the country’s interests at heart.”
Raab has rivals
Some of Raab’s rivals believe there are other candidates who would be more obvious for the role of acting prime minister.
Rishi Sunak, the newly appointed UK chancellor, has received heavy praise for his performance during press conferences on Downing Street, where he announced a historically large package of support for firms and workers.
Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is also considered by many Conservative MPs as a safer pair of hands than Raab because he has more cabinet experience and significantly more ministerial ability.