In Brief

Johnson remains in intensive care - is there a power vacuum?

Confusion over who will make key coronavirus decisions in absence of prime minister

Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care amid confusion over how the British government will make key decisions in his absence.

With the prime minister convalescing in hospital, The Guardian says there is now a “power vacuum” at the heart of government because the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the PM, has no power to make major decisions without cabinet agreement.

Downing Street revealed yesterday that any big decisions would have to be made collectively by the cabinet. Asked at the daily briefing if he would be able to change the lockdown, Raab said: “I was given a very clear steer from the prime minister and as we have been going through this crisis, very clear instructions in terms of dealing with coronavirus – and he’s asked me to deputise for him as long as is necessary, but the normal cabinet responsibility and principles that inform that will apply.”

An intensive care consultant says the average expected stay for coronavirus patients in intensive care is three weeks. During such a period, the government faces a series of difficult decisions about when and how to lift lockdown restrictions.

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Sky News says the review of the lockdown, due for next week, could be delayed as “there are also doubts in Whitehall about whether critical decisions on the lockdown can be taken without Mr Johnson's input”.

“Who will make call on lockdown?” asks the Daily Telegraph’s front page this morning, which says there is “confusion” over the “constitutional power” in the government.

Lord Heseltine, who was deputy prime minister under John Major, told the paper: “There must come a time when a deputy is effectively prime minister. I don't think we've probably quite got to that now. But the present urgency of the situation and the potential decisions that may need to be taken does mean that Dominic Raab will have to use his discretion and know when to act.”

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