Dominic Raab is “designated survivor” but we are still left with more questions than answersby Jill Rutter / April 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
In the United States, if the president is incapacitated there is a clear line of succession set out in the constitution. First, the vice president, second the speaker of the House of Representatives, then over to the Senate and eventually back to the cabinet.
But this is another area where the UK just muddles through. There is actually no official constitutional post of deputy prime minister—and those given the title politically have rarely been someone the prime minister at the time would see as their chosen deputy: Geoffrey Howe, who was given a consolation prize after being sacked as foreign secretary, John Prescott, who was important for shoring up the base sceptical about Blair’s Labour Party credentials but was not the big beast in the cabinet, and Nick Clegg in the coalition. If David Cameron had fallen off his bike and been run over by the following car, either William Hague or George Osborne would have taken over.
Boris Johnson has no formal deputy. But as Covid-19 hit, it was briefed that his “designated survivor” was Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab—and it is Raab who will chair the emergency Covid meeting this morning, as the PM cannot realistically “Zoom” in from St Thomas’, where his team says he is having routine tests.
That may work as a stopgap—the sort of arrangement we see when ministers are put in charge during the silly season in August, when prime ministers jet off to the Alps, a secluded villa or a Caribbean Island. But at that time, the PM may be on holiday, but they are accompanied not just by their partner and a protection team, but also by a travelling Downing Street designed so they can continue to be in charge, even if someone else is manning the home front.
But this is not the silly season. This is the middle of a crisis. And it is a crisis with weeks and months to run, where tempers are already fraying.
The weekend press has been full of briefing and counter-briefing: ministers against unaccountable and clunky arm’s length bodies; advisers against civil servants; departmental civil servants against the cabinet Secretary; and reportedly real arguments over strategy between the two standout players of the crisis so far: Health Secretary Matt…