Ahead of Sajid Javid’s resignation statement in the Commons, allies of the former chancellor were keen to press that it would be a friendly affair. The idea being that Javid wanted to use the traditional personal statement to be constructive rather than score points. In the end, there was plenty of praise for the Prime Minister as well as some laughter. But there was also much in the way of criticism for an unelected inhabitant of 10 Downing Street.
Javid praised Boris Johnson. He said the Prime Minister had been given a huge mandate to transform this country and was off to a ‘great start’. The former chancellor also lavished praise on his successor and one time deputy Rishi Sunak, saying he was certain Sunak would rise to the challenge before him. But for all Javid’s praise, he had next to nothing positive to say about Johnson’s aides. Javid said he had been given an impossible choice – to oust his aides in favour of No. 10 staff – which he could not accept as it would threaten the ability of the Treasury to work in the national interest:
‘Advisers advise, minister decide, and ministers decide on their advisors. I couldn’t see why the Treasury, with the vital role that it plays, should be the exception to that.
A chancellor has to be able to give candid advice to a prime minister so he is speaking truth to power.’
While Javid didn’t go so far as to name Dominic Cummings, it was clear that it was him he was referring to. Javid and his team see Cummings as instrumental in forcing through changes to centralise power to Downing Street. He also went so far as to give a pretty big hint when he quipped that he didn’t want to dwell any more on ‘the Cummings and goings, if you will’.
As for Javid’s future, he said he felt he still had more to give. Boris Johnson also complimented him after the statement was done – as someone with ‘friends and admirers’ across all parts of the Commons. The relationship between Johnson and Javid is intact, which leaves the door open for his return at a future date. However the statement also shows how it would be hard for Javid to return to Cabinet while Cummings remains in post.
So what will Javid do in the meantime to content himself on the backbenches? A hint came in his speech today when he talked about low tax. Javid said he was a ‘proud low-tax Conservative’. He said not everyone in government is committed to keeping taxes down and warned against increasing the tax burden, its highest for 50 years. Allies of Javid feel he was unfairly blamed for various reports in the papers of plans for a mansion tax and pension tax relief. They insist that a push for higher spending comes firmly from No. 10 itself. Javid looks set to now restore his reputation as a low-tax Thatcherite from the backbenches where he has freedom to do and say as he wants.