By Arj Singh
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Raab In Charge?
At an incredibly difficult time, the de facto acting prime minister Dominic Raab got the tone just right when he discussed the appalling situation gripping the government with Boris Johnson in intensive care for coronavirus.
Raab kicked off today’s Downing Street briefing by saying Johnson was “not just the prime minister” and “not just our boss”, but also a “colleague and friend” who had the whole cabinet’s thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
His personal touch will have been appreciated by a worried population who have been looking to Johnson as more than just the country’s top politician responsible for taxing and spending and laws, but as the man to lead them out of the crisis.
The PM’s condition is thankfully stable and he is breathing without the need for a mechanical ventilator.
But while Raab got the tone just right, he ducked some of the difficult questions on the substance.
With the country in its third week of lockdown, there are some monumental decisions looming.
Raab insisted ministers “will not flinch” before refusing several times to say whether he would make the final calls if necessary, pointing instead to cabinet collective responsibility and “very clear instructions from the prime minister”.
But the first secretary of state then undermined his own faith in collective decision-making almost immediately by pointedly singling out Matt Hancock when asked if the government was still committed to 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by May, stressing “the health secretary’s 100,000 per day target still stands”.
Raab also refused to say whether the lockdown measures would continue beyond next week’s three-week review deadline imposed by the PM, and failed to confirm the review would even take place without Johnson.
As a holding position, it can work as many expect the lockdown to be extended for a similar period as a formality, and is perhaps an order Johnson can give from a recovery bed.
But if Brexit and Johnson himself taught us anything, there is collective cabinet responsibility and there’s the reality of who makes the decisions.There are already splits between the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care over the long-term fate of the lockdown and the UK’s coronavirus strategy.
And while everyone hopes the PM is well enough to return to No.10 soon, his condition is serious and he may need some time to recover.
At some point, Raab may need to step up to the plate and clarify the chain of command.
Quote Of The Day
“So many families have not been able to attend their loved ones in hospital, so many families even have not been able to help or support them once the medical teams surround them.
“And this is the same for Boris Johnson, arguably the most powerful man in Britain, the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
“He is in exactly the same position, in many senses, as just every other person in Britain.”
– Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.
The cabinet will “not flinch” in the fight against coronavirus while “fighter” Boris Johnson is being treated in critical care, de facto deputy PM Dominic Raab has said.
A further 854 deaths in hospitals of people who have tested positive for coronavirus have been recorded in the UK over 24 hours. According to the NHS, patients who died in England were aged between 23 and 102. Of these, 29 patients – between the ages of 23 and 99 – had no known underlying health condition.
Coronavirus was a factor in almost 5% of all deaths in England and Wales in the week leading up to March 27, figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed – 539 cases in total.
Michael Gove is the latest senior government figure to go into self-isolation at home after a member of his family experienced coronavirus symptoms.
David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told HuffPost UK it is “not a good idea” to contract coronavirus on purpose in an attempt to secure a so-called immunity passport, which could grant the freedom to return to normal life.
What I’m Reading
Coronavirus: What it means to be admitted to intensive care | The Independent