Loading...

Who is the deputy prime minister? What happens if Boris Johnson resigns as UK PM - will Dominic Raab take over

The government has previously said there is ‘no single protocol’ for who takes over if the prime minister passes away

With Boris Johnson under increasing pressure following a series of damning scandals and allegations over the last few months, some have started to question how long the current prime minister has left in office.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

Now it has emerged that Johnson, his wife Carrie, and chancellor Rishi Sunak will be served with fines by the Met Police for breaches to lockdown rules during the height of the Covid pandemic.

If he steps down - or loses a vote of no confidence - the Conservative party will hold a leadership contest to decide the next prime minister of the UK. This is who holds the position of Mr Johnson’s deputy prime minister.

Who is the deputy prime minister?

The current deputy prime minister is Dominic Raab, who was given the role in September 2021.

Raab is the first person to be named deputy PM since Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who served as the junior coalition partner along with David Cameron’s Conservatives between 2010 and 2015.

There is no requirement for the prime minister to appoint a deputy and many have chosen not to, including David Cameron during his second term and Theresa May.

Although the official deputy prime minister title is not always used, there is generally understood to be a ‘de-facto deputy’, sometimes given the title of first secretary of state.

What does the deputy prime minister do?

The primary duties of the deputy prime minister are to represent the government at PMQs and chair cabinet meetings, if the prime minister is absent.

There is no assurance of succession for the deputy prime minister.

Can the deputy prime minister become prime minister?

With Boris Johnson under increasing pressure following a series of damning scandals and allegations over the last few months, some have started to question how long the current prime minister has left in office.

Should he choose to quit being prime minister, or should Conservative MPs decide to oust him, a leadership election will be held to decide who becomes the next prime minister.

But there are some circumstances in which the deputy prime minister could step in as an interim leader.

If something were to happen to Boris Johnson which meant he was unable to fulfil his duties, the deputy prime minister would likely temporarily assume the top job.

Although there was no official deputy prime minister when Boris Johnson was taken ill with Covid last year, Dominic Raab was named as the acting PM during those few days, and it is understood that he would have become acting prime minister had Johnson’s condition significantly worsened.

What happens if the prime minister dies?

Although there is a recognised role of deputy prime minister, there is some debate over whether this role automatically entitles the holder to take over as interim-PM in the event of the sitting prime minister’s death.

Officially it is the Queen who gives the prime minister power to rule and in the event of a sitting prime minister’s death there is no automatic succession process.

In 2008, the Cabinet Office said “there is no single protocol setting out all of the possible implications” in the instance of a prime minister dying while in office.

They added: “There can be no automatic assumption about who The Queen would ask to act as caretaker Prime Minister in the event of the death of the Prime Minister. The decision is for her under the Royal Prerogative.

“However, there are some key guiding principles. The Queen would probably be looking for a very senior member of the Government (not necessarily a Commons Minister since this would be a short-term appointment).

“If there was a recognised deputy to the Prime Minister, used to acting on his behalf in his absences, this could be an important factor. Also important would be the question of who was likely to be in contention to take over long-term as Prime Minister.

“If the most senior member of the Government was him or herself a contender for the role of Prime Minister, it might be that The Queen would invite a slightly less senior non-contender.

“In these circumstances, her private secretary would probably take soundings, via the Cabinet Secretary, of members of the Cabinet, to ensure that The Queen invited someone who would be acceptable to the Cabinet to act as their chair during the caretaker period.

“Once the Party had elected a new leader, that person would, of course, be invited to take over as Prime Minister.”

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.