In Depth

Dominic Raab: will the deputy PM step in?

Calls for Raab to replace Boris Johnson as interim prime minister immediately.

Boris Johnson is facing calls to reverse his decision to stay on as prime minister until autumn and instead hand over to his deputy.

Former No. 10 aide Dominic Cummings tweeted that Johnson will cause “carnage” if he stays on while a new Tory leader is chosen and argued that Dominic Raab should be installed as “interim PM by evening”. The Telegraph's Camilla Tominey predicted that if “Tory MPs want ‘Big Dog’ out of the No. 10 kennel” quickly, “they may decide to throw a bone” to Raab.

Labour's Andy Burnham and former prime minister John Major have made similar calls.

Who is Dominic Raab?

Raab was born in Buckinghamshire to a Czech-born Jewish father who came to Britain in 1938 as a refugee.

He studied law at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and for a master’s at Cambridge, winning the Clive Parry Prize for International Law. He began his working career as a business lawyer at City law firm Linklaters, where he specialised in project finance, competition law and international litigation. 

He also completed secondments at human rights NGO Liberty and in Brussels advising on European Union and World Trade Organization (WTO) law, the government website said.

From 2000 to 2006, Raab later worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on a range of issues including investor protection. As an FCO lawyer, Raab was also the lead on a team “focusing on bringing war criminals to justice at The Hague”, the BBC reported.

He is married to Brazil-born Erika, a former Google marketing executive, with whom he has two sons. He holds a black belt third Dan in karate and is a keen boxer, with a picture of Muhammad Ali reportedly spotted hanging in his Commons office. 

Raab’s parliamentary career

Raab is “not short on experience”, said Tominey in The Telegraph. He became MP for Esher and Walton, a safe Tory seat, in 2010, and has served in government since after the 2015 election, initially working in the Ministry of Justice before moving to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in January 2018.

In 2017, Raab was described as “offensive” by then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, after saying that “the typical user of a food bank is not someone that’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cash flow problem”.

Brexiteer Raab was promoted to secretary of state for Leaving the European Union in July 2018, a post he held until November 2018, when he resigned over his disapproval of Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.

He “famously received a slap down from [May] in 2011 in her role as minister for women and equalities”, after he labelled feminists “obnoxious bigots”, said the The New Statesman.

Raab ran in the race to succeed her as Tory party leader in 2019, but was eliminated in the second ballot of Conservative MPs and instead endorsed Johnson for the job.

Johnson subsequently named him foreign secretary and first secretary of state (effectively deputy prime minister), in July 2019. In April the following year, Raab took over the PM’s responsibilities while Johnson was hospitalised with Covid. At the time, colleagues told Politico that the state secretary would be “a forensic stand-in” for the PM – “albeit one who sometimes lacks charm”. 

Last September, Raab was demoted to the role of lord chancellor. But he “insisted” that as well as becoming secretary of state for justice, he should also have the official title of deputy prime minister “rather than the de facto role of first secretary of state”, a demand that sparked curiosity as to whether Raab “had let his ego get the better of him”, said The Telegraph’s Tominey.

Will he take control?

Raab was “conspicuous” by his absence yesterday as a delegation of cabinet members visited Johnson at No. 10 to demand that he resign, said Tominey.

Allies have suggested that Raab won’t join the race to become PM, but “the current dearth of convincing leadership candidates could play into the black belt's hands”, she continued. He has “a lot of the credentials his Conservative colleagues are crying out for”. The “so-called ‘grey hairs’” of the Tory party view him “as somewhat of a posterboy for traditional Toryism”,  and “another selling point is that he is unafraid of challenging woke orthodoxy”. 

If Johnson decided to step down as leader immediately, there is “no hard rule” on who would step in on a temporary basis “as the UK does not have a written constitution”, said Alex Finnis at the i news site. “However, it is generally accepted that the deputy prime minister would be the one to fill in.”

But Raab might not prove a popular choice as leader, even if it is only an interim job. According to YouGov data, he comes in at 25th on the rankings of most popular Conservative politicians – behind former cabinet ministers Amber Rudd, Michael Gove and Matt Hancock. 

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