Dominic Raab has said he was given “five minutes notice” that he was taking over the running of the country from Boris Johnson during the pandemic.
The former foreign secretary told the Covid inquiry on Wednesday he believed the government “did a reasonable job” during his time in charge.
He stepped up as de facto prime minister in April 2020 when Johnson was incapacitated due to being serious ill with Covid.
At the time, Raab was also first secretary of state, with Johnson having told him “you’ve got my back” if he ever became unable to do his job.
Raab revealed he was told by officials he would need to take charge moments after wrapping up one of the Downing Street daily press conferences on April 6.
“I was effectively told on five minutes’ notice,” he told the inquiry.
The chance Johnson could die triggered a crisis at the top of government and Raab said he needed to “steady the ship”.
“We actually did a reasonable job during that four, five weeks”, Raab said, thanks to “British pragmatism”.
Raab also said he was wary of imposing too much of his own will on the government while serving as interim-PM.
“I didn’t want anyone saying Dom Raab is enjoying this just a bit too much,” he said. “I wasn’t. I was there to do a job.”
“I was mindful of not looking like I was camping out in No.10 while my prime minister was ill-disposed.”
The Covid inquiry is still due to hear from Rishi Sunak, Johnson and Matt Hancock.