AWhen Johnson’s cabinet minister is asked whether Dominic Raab also has command over the British army and nuclear weapons, he gives an evasive answer. What competencies Raab has as Johnson’s representative is unclear. A bad prerequisite for coping with the corona crisis.
On Tuesday Boris Johnson stayed in the intensive care unit of the “St Thomas´ Hospital” in London. According to government statements, he is supplied with oxygen, but is not connected to an invasive breathing apparatus and is conscious. His condition was “stable,” it said. Not only Queen Elizabeth II wished her Prime Minister a speedy recovery. In all political camps in the country, Johnson was publicly thought and often prayed for. Many spoke of the “struggle of his life”.
Distraught and banned, the British follow the skinny bulletins over the Prime Minister’s illness. Another report documented how strong the virus has the nation and especially the political scene. Michael Gove, cabinet minister one of the pillars of the government, also retired to self-isolation on Tuesday after a member of his family developed suspicious symptoms of corona. Health minister Matt Hancock and some secretaries of state have since cured the disease, but many government advisors and staff have failed, including chief medical advisor Chris Whitty and Johnson’s chief political advisor Dominic Cummings.
“Represent where necessary”
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, who also holds the title of “First Secretary of State”, has now taken on the day-to-day business of the highest-ranking cabinet member. Johnson had told him shortly before he was transferred to the intensive care unit that he should “represent the Prime Minister where necessary”. Raab led the “Covid 19 Committee” for the second time on Tuesday, a kind of daily crisis cabinet. His powers have only been partially clarified. When the BBC asked Gove whether Raab was in command of the army and also nuclear weapons in the event of war, he evaded: He was not allowed to say anything about national security matters. A government spokesman later added that Raab would head the National Security Council, but no such date is due in the near future. Unlike the Prime Minister in normal times, Raab would not teach the Queen every Wednesday. He also has no sovereignty over personnel decisions.
Lord O’Donnell, who was the highest official in the Kingdom until 2011, argued on Tuesday that no formal change had taken place. “Boris Johnson remains prime minister until he resigns,” he said. Lord Kerslake, a successor of O’Donnel, interpreted the situation politically and pointed out that Raab would get an authority problem in the long run. If Johnson doesn’t recover quickly, “the cabinet will ask who should be prime minister,” said Kerslake. Then the conservatives would have to elect a new chairman.
Raab tried to emphasize the team spirit of the cabinet. The government will continue to fight the pandemic in the direction the Prime Minister has set, he said. The government has pointed out that many fundamental decisions have already been made, from the drastic restrictions on public life to the expansion of hospital structures to the massive expansion of test capacities, which are expected to reach 100,000 a day at the end of the month. But more decisions are pending.
More than 800 corona deaths in one day
The first three weeks of the nationwide “lockdown” will end this coming weekend. At this point, the measures should be “reviewed” as Johnson had announced. At the moment, it is not expected that the restrictions will be relaxed because the peak of the infection does not appear to have been reached. On the contrary: On Tuesday, a new daily record was achieved with more than 800 deaths. But sometime in the coming weeks, the numbers will go down and the calibrated return to normality requires political sensitivity. It cannot be ruled out that the government will tighten the screws again before loosening.
Health minister Hancock had threatened this last week in the event that the discipline of the population deteriorated and the restrictions on going out were no longer sufficiently followed. Will a government headed by a man without a mandate have sufficient authority to make such sensitive decisions?
In the best case, Johnson will be operational again in seven to ten days – according to the remote diagnoses of various doctors. Many who knew the Prime Minister personally highlighted Johnson’s physical constitution on Tuesday. He was an “extremely tough tpy” and also “quite fit,” said former Prime Minister David Cameron, who occasionally competes with Johnson on the tennis court. American President Donald Trump also spoke up again. Johnson, a “really good friend”, is “something very special: strong, decisive, persevering, not giving up”. Trump was even active. That night he sent representatives of two pharmaceutical companies to London who could offer “advanced therapy”. “We have contacted everyone of Boris’ doctors and we will see what happens now – but they are ready.”