Who is Dominic Raab, the interim prime minister while Boris Johnson is unwell?

Dominic Raab, who assumed temporary leadership on Monday, has previously told of his 'pride' about his Jewish heritage



Several of the papers this morning are speculating about the possibility of Dominic Raab – who is currently deputising for Boris Johnson whilst the prime minister remains in intensive care with coronavirus – may have to assume the role of a caretaker prime minister.

Mr Raab, who is foreign secretary and first minister of state, still needs cabinet approval for major decisions, and has no power to change cabinet roles (including if ministers fall ill) or hold the prime minister's weekly audience with the Queen. But he could decide on matters of national security.

Mr Raab assumed leadership on Monday, after Mr Johnson was taken to the ICU at St Thomas’ Hospital, having tested positive for coronavirus and having symptoms for 10 days.

He has now spent two nights in intensive care receiving oxygen, but has not needed to be on a ventilator.

On Monday, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis tweeted a prayer for Mr Johnson, saying: “May he be strengthened and granted a swift and complete recovery, together with all those who continue to suffer at the hands of this terrible virus.”


Mr Raab told of his “pride” at his own family’s Jewish ancestry in an interview with the JC in January.

His Czech-born Jewish father Peter came to Britain in 1938 as a refugee, aged six, following the Nazi Anschluss. He died of cancer when Mr Raab was 12. His mother brought him up in the Church of England, and he is married to a Brazilian catholic.

He said he heard stories of the family’s ordeal in Eastern Europe from his grandmother, who “lived to a ripe old age” and lived close to his family home.

“Dad rarely spoke about his past or where he came from. Part of that was horror, part of that was that he was a classic, assimilated Jewish man,” said Mr Raab.

Mr Raab said large numbers of his family died in the holocaust, which along with the death of his father was “in one sense piercingly painful and in another sense has left me with a very strong sense of family and its importance.”

As an Oxford- and Cambridge-educated lawyer for the foreign office before going into politics, he was part of a team that focused on bringing war criminals to justice at The Hague.

What about his political career?

Mr Raab took his Esher and Walton seat in 2010 and became a junior minister under David Cameron’s coalition government.

He is most well known for being an ardent Brexiteer. After being promoted to housing minister by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018, he was then made Brexit secretary following the resignation of David Davis, his first cabinet role.

He only stayed in the post for four months, resigning in November that year over what he described as two “fatal flaws” with Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU.

Following Mrs May’s announcement in March 2019 that she would be standing down as PM, Mr Raab entered the Tory leadership race, but failed to gather the 33 nominations from MPs needed to make it onto the ballot.

However, when Boris Johnson won the race and took over as Prime Minister in July 2019, Raab’s position on Brexit was rewarded and he was made Foreign Secretary, where he backed the American assassination of high-ranking Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

What are his thoughts on antisemitism?

Speaking to the JC ahead of a Holocaust Memorial Day speech at the Foreign Office, he said he was “still shocked” at the way “old tropes that informed the pogroms of the 19th century that then fuelled Nazism” have found their way into the higher echelons of British society.

He said what had particularly angered him was to hear “senior level politicians, obviously including Jeremy Corbyn... come up with this rubbish.”

However, he added: “There are still lots of decent people in the Labour Party. If we take a zero tolerance approach I am confident that at some point we will reject and expel this.”

What happens if he gets sick as well?

According to the i newspaper, if Mr Raab falls ill, Chancellor Rishi Sunak would take his place. It would be a continuation of one of the swiftest rises to the highest office of the land, as Mr Sunak only became an MP in 2015, and was elevated to Chancellor following the resignation of Sajid Javid in February.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive