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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler



The country has been left without a clear answer as to whether The First Secretary is truly deputising for The Prime Minister or not. At yesterday's Government Briefing, Dominic Raab, First Secretary, stoutly refused to accept that he was acting as The PM's Deputy, but insisted on linking his new role as chairing those cabinet and sub committee meetings which normally would have been chaired by the PM.

This does not resolve the issue of who has the ultimate decision making power in our Government. To suggest, as Raab did, that all decisions are collegiate, displays a complete ignorance of the role of leader in such a structure. Is he indeed ignorant (that seems implausible, despite his lack of any real managerial experience on his cv) or is he simply nervous of powerful colleagues only too keen to take the opportunity to advance their own careers - Gove springs instantly to mind.

Whatever the reasoning it is surely misplaced.

You either deputise or not. There can be no half measures, especially in a crisis situation. We are given to understand that the weekly audience with the Queen, for example, has been shelved until the return of the PM. This is simply constitutionally unacceptable. Add to that that Parliament is not sitting, and we don't know when or how it will be reconvened, and that the moves made by the PM last week to involve, at least in an informal way, leaders of other Parties seems also to be on hold, then the situation appears unsustainable in the medium term.

To repeat the mantra, as Raab has done, that the Cabinet will simply follow the instructions and route of journey laid down by the PM is clearly nonsense, as Harold Macmillan is famously reported to have said, 'Events,dear boy, events'. Such events,God forbid, might involve terrorism, natural disasters, or even further Russian incursions into our airspace or territorial waters. Someone must make the decision, and in a democracy the citizens must know who that someone is. 'Collective Responsibility' simply doesn't cut it, without a 'primus inter pares' in place.

I wrote previously that the question of constitutional reform in this area of government must be seriously looked at after the present crisis is ended. Yet, if Raab had acted decisively one could argue that our unwritten constitution was up to the task. Sadly, Raab has shown this not to be the case.

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