Yet, coming just 24 hours after he was first admitted to hospital for checks after coronavirus symptoms persisted, these were deeply perturbing developments for Mr Johnson’s family, government and country at what is already a time of national tragedy.
As such, it was proper – and entirely in keeping with constitutional protocol – for Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, as First Secretary of State, to be asked to deputise for the PM.
Mr Raab chaired yesterday’s Covid-19 committee before taking the 5pm Downing Street press conference. Yet, despite his calm authority, he will need the full support of all Ministers as he takes control of a peacetime crisis like no other.
And given that the closest parallel in modern political history is Sir Anthony Eden’s abrupt resignation, on health grounds, in January 1957, it will also be appropriate for Mr Raab to reach out to Opposition leaders like Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader, to avoid any unnecessary rancour. He should also seek the counsel of former prime ministers if and when appropriate.
Now, more than ever, the political establishment needs to come together as one and focus, exclusively, on mitigating the worst effects of this disease. After all, news of the PM’s health overshadowed the UK’s 5,000 death from this plague – a milestone that almost passed without mention as coronavirus tears through the country’s social and economic fabric.
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