The UK government says Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “still very much in charge”, after he was admitted to hospital with “persistent” coronavirus symptoms. But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is chairing meetings in his absence. So who is he?
Less than three years ago, Dominic Raab wasn’t even in the government.
But now, as foreign secretary and first secretary of state, he is the de-facto second-in-command to Mr Johnson.
That means he could take over running the government for a while if the prime minister sees his health worsen.
It’s an opportunity Mr Raab, a 46-year-old former lawyer, would relish, under normal circumstances.
The staunch Brexiteer ran for the Conservative Party leadership last year but he was knocked out in the second round of voting by MPs.
Prior to that he had run-ins with Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, quitting her cabinet after just over four months as Brexit secretary.
The sometimes outspoken Mr Raab has had a volatile time – going in and out of favour – since becoming Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, Surrey, in 2010.
Who is Dominic Raab?
Date of birth: 25 February 1974 (age 46)
Job: Foreign secretary, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton
Education: Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, Amersham, Oxford and Cambridge universities
Family: Married to Erika Ray, a Brazilian marketing executive. Two sons
Before politics: Foreign office lawyer. He was the lead on a team focusing on bringing war criminals to justice at The Hague
A married father of two, Mr Raab was born in 1974, the son of a Czech-born Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in 1938.
He was was brought up in Buckinghamshire and attended Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham, before studying law at Oxford University and switching to Cambridge for his master’s.
He worked as a lawyer in the commercial sector and the Foreign Office before entering politics in 2006 as an aide to Brexit-supporting Conservative MP David Davis, and then Remain-backing Dominic Grieve.
First elected to Parliament in 2010, the following year Mr Raab angered the then home secretary, Theresa May, by describing some feminists as “obnoxious bigots” in an online article also claiming men were getting “a raw deal”.
Mrs May accused him of fuelling “gender warfare”.
Mr Raab remained on the back benches for five years after becoming an MP.
But the karate black-belt became a junior justice minister following David Cameron’s general election victory in 2015.
He played a prominent role in the successful Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, but was sacked by Mrs May when she took over as prime minister.
In 2017, Mr Raab was branded “offensive” by then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron after saying “the typical user of a food bank is not someone that’s languishing in poverty; it’s someone who has a cash flow problem”.
But in June that year he returned to government, as a justice minister, this time middle-ranking rather than junior.
In Mrs May’s January 2018 reshuffle he became housing minister – one of the highest-profile non-cabinet roles in government.
And in July that year, when Mr Davis quit, the prime minister promoted Mr Raab to Brexit secretary, a cabinet post.
Yet his improved relationship with Mrs May did not last long. In November 2018, he quit, criticising her position on Brexit.
He argued that he could not “in good conscience” support the “backstop” arrangement designed to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
As an influential Brexiteer, his comments were seen as significant in increasing opposition to Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, which MPs repeatedly rejected.
After Mrs May announced she was standing down last year, Mr Raab entered the contest to become Conservative leader, and prime minister.
In a crowded field, he failed to get the 33 MPs’ votes he needed to progress to the third round. Fellow Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove outlasted him.
Mark Francois, one of the most strongly pro-Brexit of Tory MPs, said: “Whoever wins, and I hope it’s Boris, I hope they find a good place for Dom in their cabinet, because I think he deserves it.”
Mr Johnson, to whom Mr Raab gave his support after his elimination from the the race, did just that. On 24 July last year he became foreign secretary and first secretary of sate – effectively deputy prime minister.
The new job gave him an international profile surpassed only by Mr Johnson’s, in terms of the UK government.
But he only narrowly managed to hold on to Esher and Walton at last December’s general election, seeing off a strong Liberal Democrat challenged by 2,743 votes.
The overall Conservative landslide, however, on a promise to “get Brexit done”, meant he saw his dream of leaving the EU come true on 31 January this year.
Since then coronavirus has taken over from Brexit as the UK government’s number one priority, although tough negotiations on a trade deal with Brussels are continuing, via video link.
It was reported recently that Mr Raab, as well as being first secretary of state, had been chosen as “designated survivor” – the person who takes over the running of the country if Mr Johnson is struck down, reaffirming his status.
The government says the prime minister hopes to return to Downing Street “as soon as possible”.
But the former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake, argues it may be “sensible” for Mr Johnson to “step back” if he is not well enough to carry out his role for now.
If this happens, Mr Raab will be tasked with handling possibly the greatest crisis facing the UK since World War Two.
At least for a few days.