Self-styled ‘tough guy’ and one-time boxing blue with just one year’s Cabinet experience: Ex-Foreign Office lawyer Dominic Raab is a relative new kid on the block – but is no stranger to controversy
- Dominic Raab now de facto prime minister after Boris Johnson was hospitalised
- Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State in Cabinet for just over one year
- Mr Raab had previously served as Brexit Secretary in Theresa May’s government
- He joined Tory leadership contest in 2019 but fell short and backed Mr Johnson
- Ardent Brexiteer’s loyalty then rewarded by PM as he made him his number two
- Mr Johnson’s stand in is a former Foreign Office lawyer and a black belt in karate
Dominic Raab is now the UK’s de facto prime minister after Boris Johnson was hospitalised, with the running of the country placed in the hands of a man who has just one year of Cabinet experience.
Mr Johnson has asked the Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State to deputise for him while he fights coronavirus in a London intensive care unit.
The elevation of Mr Raab to the top political job in the country completes what has been a meteoric rise for the former Foreign Office lawyer, karate black belt and Oxford University boxing blue who is no stranger to controversy.
Dominic Raab, pictured in Westminster today, is now the de facto prime minister after Boris Johnson was hospitalised with coronavirus
Mr Raab’s bulging muscles and athletic frame leap out of a photo taken during his days as an Oxford University boxing blue in 1995
Westminster was stunned last July when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister and chose to select Mr Raab, a self-styled Tory ‘tough guy’, as his future stand-in.
Many were expecting the 46-year-old to be rewarded with a big job after he backed the PM in the Tory leadership contest having seen his own bid fall flat.
But few had anticipated Mr Raab being awarded one of the four great offices of state while even fewer predicted he would be designated Mr Johnson’s deputy.
However, the appointment made political sense for the new premier given Mr Raab’s hardline Brexit credentials.
Mr Raab was one of the most vocal supporters of the UK leaving the EU and his appointment to the highest echelons of government reassured Eurosceptic Tory MPs that the PM was not going to go soft on Brussels after winning power.
Becoming Foreign Secretary represented a massive step up for Mr Raab in terms of government responsibility having only held one Cabinet role prior to his major promotion.
Mr Raab, first elected as the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton in 2010, had to wait five years before getting a proper ministerial job.
And after slowly climbing the Whitehall ladder he finally broke into the Cabinet in July 2018 after receiving the call from Theresa May to be her new Brexit Secretary following the resignation of David Davis.
However, he would only last until November of the same year as he also quit in protest at the then-PM’s Brexit plans – just like his predecessor.
Having entered the Tory leadership contest in late May 2019, he was quickly eliminated but swiftly announced he was supporting Mr Johnson’s candidacy.
He was then subsequently appointed Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State on July 24, 2019.
That means that as of today, Mr Raab has just over one year of Cabinet experience under his belt – eight months in Mr Johnson’s administration and five in Mrs May’s.
The designation of Mr Raab as Mr Johnson’s deputy has not been without controversy with some ministers unhappy at the prospect of the Foreign Office chief being put in charge.
Some members of the government had recently been pushing for Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, to be given the responsibility.
Mr Raab, pictured with his wife Erika in June 2019 during his Tory leadership run, was first elected as an MP in 2010
Mr Raab, pictured alongside Mr Johnson in the House of Commons in December last year, will now be tasked with overseeing the UK’s coronavirus response
One minister said a few weeks ago that ‘a lot of people think that Michael should be running the show’ if Mr Johnson became incapacitated and that ‘one of these people is Michael, of course’.
But Downing Street has been clear for weeks that Mr Raab would take over if the situation demanded it.
Mr Raab has dealt with a number of political controversies since becoming an MP and later a Cabinet minister.
Upon being appointed Foreign Secretary, Mr Raab was soon thrust into handling the Transatlantic fall-out over the death of British teenager Harry Dunn, who was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year.
The fact Mr Dunn’s parents tried to heckle Mr Raab at a constituency hustings event was indicative of how well the family felt he dealt with obtaining justice for their son as the government tried and failed to persuade the US to extradite the teenager’s alleged killer.
Mr Raab also had to manage the thorny issue of repatriating children of British jihadis.
Early on in his parliamentary career Mr Raab sparked a furious row after he wrote an article in which he argued ‘feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots’.
He refused to apologise and stuck by his comments, defending them last year when he was challenged on them during the Tory leadership battle.
He said he stood by what he had said because he believed it is ‘really important that in the debate on equality we have a consistency and not double standards and hypocrisy’.
Mr Raab, who is married to a Brazilian called Erika who he has two children with, has also said he is ‘probably not’ a feminist, sparking a further backlash.
He found himself again at the centre of a storm of controversy in May 2017 after claiming that people who use food banks are not typically in poverty but have an occasional ‘cashflow problem’.
The Foreign Secretary first made it to the Cabinet in 2018 when he was appointed Brexit Secretary. He is pictured with Michel Barnier in Brussels in August of that year
Critics labelled the remarks ‘stupid and deeply offensive’.
He also got into hot water last year after he said he would keep open the option of suspending Parliament in order to prevent MPs blocking Brexit.
His past comments, and his hardline stance on Brexit, have not endeared Mr Raab to his political opponents.
At the 2019 general election he was relentlessly targeted by the Liberal Democrats in his Surrey constituency and came relatively close to being ousted.
He had previously held the seat with majorities of more than 20,000 votes but in December he held on with a majority of just under 3,000 as the Lib Dems surged, capitalising on the pro-Remain vote.
Mr Raab has sought to create something of a ‘hard man’ image in Westminster, with his website boasting that he ‘holds a black belt 3rd dan in karate and is a former UK Southern Regions champion and British squad member’.
He captained the karate club at Oxford University where he studied law and was also a boxing blue as a member of the institution’s famous amateur boxing club.
Mr Raab is clearly proud of his time as a university boxer, having previously handed a picture of him in his shorts and vest to a TV company to use for their profile of him.
He still trains at a boxing club in Thames Ditton and has a poster of Muhammad Ali in his Commons office.
In 2006, he was appointed chief of staff to fellow Tory Mr Davis. The former Special Forces reservist said Mr Raab’s karate black belt impressed him more than his two Oxbridge degrees – the second came in a form of a Masters from Cambridge.
Mr Raab said karate helped him cope with the premature death of his father, who had fled to the UK from Czechoslovakia at the age of six in 1938 to escape the Nazis.
Mr Raab was just 12 when his father died. ‘Sport helped restore my confidence, and that hugely benefited my attitude to school and life,’ he said in May last year.
‘There were strong role models, camaraderie and an ethos of respect. I take the discipline and focus I learnt from sport into my professional life – and I believe that approach is vital to making a success of the Brexit negotiations and delivering a fairer deal from Brussels.’
Despite his karate black belt, Mr Raab is known for his courtesy and was upset when civil servants who worked for him as Brexit Secretary anonymously described him as a bully.
Mr Raab, who previously worked at the Foreign Office as a lawyer, denied claims, made by his former diary secretary, that he insisted on the same Pret a Manger lunch every day.
The ‘Dom Raab special’ apparently consists of a chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, superfruit pot and a vitamin volcano smoothie.
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