The Oxford and Cambridge educated Foreign Secretary, a high flying lawyer before moving into politics, is one of the cleverest men on the Tory benches.
And as First Secretary of State he is the highest-ranking Cabinet minister, the de facto Deputy Prime Minister who in Boris Johnson’s absence is charged with running the country.
But despite his impressive intellect, even some of his admirers admit reservations about him stepping up to the role. Socially awkward, he’s a desperately wooden media perfomer as well as a poor orator – factors which help explain why his campaign to be Tory leader bombed last summer.
For a karate black belt during his younger days, Dominic Raab (pictured) is utterly wooden… but the point is he has the complete trust of Prime Minister Boris Johnson
What’s more, there are Cabinet ministers who are good communicators and have equally impressive intellects. Some senior Tory MPs say the job should go to Michael Gove who is eloquent on the airwaves and has worked closely with Boris on Covid-19 (though Gove is now self-isolating).
Others are pressing the case for Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary who is judged by many to have performed well and is, unlike Raab, an integral figure in the fight against the virus.
Some have talked up newcomer Rishi Sunak who’s had an impressive debut as Chancellor – but aged 39, and an MP for only five years, he is considered by most too inexperienced.
The point is, however, that Boris trusts Raab. The issue of trust is key, particularly when talking about ambitious ministers who might one day fancy a permanent chance at the top job.
A young Dominic Raab, 9, with mother Jean, father Peter and sister Jody. His father died when Raab was 12.
Dominic and his sister Judy with their grandmothers at home in Buckinghamshire in the 1980s
Mr Raab described during the Tory leadership contest (video pictured left) how his father Peter had fled the Nazis in 1938 and came to Britain aged six (right)
‘Boris trusts Dominic,’ said a senior Whitehall figure. ‘That’s why Dominic is de facto deputy and not other ministers who think they are better qualified.’ Boris will never forget Gove’s ill-judged decision to run for the Tory leadership in 2016 after publicly withdrawing support from Boris after the referendum.
Hancock, meanwhile, makes no secret of his ambition. It’s no surprise that super-competitive Boris wants someone as his deputy who doesn’t appear determined to seize the crown. So who is Dominic Raab, 46, the MP for Esher and Walton since 2010 who until five years ago wasn’t even a minister?
He went to grammar school in Buckinghamshire before studying law at Oxford and gaining a master’s degree at Cambridge. Married with two sons, he worked at blue chip City lawyers Linklaters before joining the Foreign Office where he advised on a number of areas including the EU, which hardened his antipathy to Brussels – which flourished when he worked for David Davis, the Government’s first Brexit Secretary, who became his political mentor.
He has long upset the politically-correct brigade. In 2017 he was branded ‘offensive’ for provocatively suggesting ‘the typical user of a food bank is not someone that’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cash flow problem’.
Dominic Raab, pictured with his wife Erika in June 2019 during his Tory leadership run, was first elected as an MP in 2010
And last year he opposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for people to change their identity. ‘I don’t want to make it easier,’ he said. ‘We have to be very careful with young people.’
Many Tory MPs agreed with him. Raab succeeded Davis as Brexit Secretary in July 2018, lasting only four months before resigning in protest at May’s doomed draft Brexit withdrawal agreement. In December that year he was one of 117 Tory MPs who voted against May carrying on as Tory leader.
During his leadership campaign an article he wrote in 2011 returned to haunt him. It was an attack on Labour’s equality legislation: ‘Feminists are now among the most obnoxious bigots,’ he had written. ‘From the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal. It’s time for men to start burning their briefs.’
Challenged about it, he admitted he wasn’t a ‘natural feminist’ and while refusing to apologise, he insisted: ‘Sexism is wrong and it’s wrong if it’s said about a woman or about a man.
In the debate on equality we have must have a consistency.’ His reputation for being socially awkward wasn’t helped when a secretary who worked for him told the Daily Mirror he ordered the same meal every day from Pret A Manger: Chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, SuperFruit pot and a Vitamin Volcano Smoothie. He denied it.
After his leaden campaign fizzled out he backed Boris and there was surprise when he secured the biggest promotion in Boris’s reshuffle. A source said: ‘I grant you Dominic’s no leader but Boris promoted a straight, trustworthy guy. He won’t worry for a second about Dominic’s loyalty.’
As Foreign Secretary he was thrust into handling the transatlantic fall-out over the British teenager, Harry Dunn, killed outside an American RAF base in Northamptonshire when his motorbike crashed into a car driven by Anne Sacoolas who was later named as a CIA agent.
During the Covid-19 crisis the intricacies of negotiating border closures, grounded planes, and stubborn international authorities have seen Raab come under increasing pressure to get stranded British citizens back from various far-flung corners of the globe.
As the Foreign Secretary now prepares to take on additional responsibilities he has another compelling reason to enjoy the confidence of the PM. A karate black belt, he’s the fittest member of the Cabinet – and hopefully highly unlikely to succumb to the virus himself.