Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle has been blown off course this lunchtime after Sajid Javid quit as Chancellor. Javid resigned after being presented with an ultimatum by the Prime Minister. After a fortnight of negative No.10/No.11 briefings, Javid was told he could stay in his post on the condition he agreed to a SpAd restructuring. This would have involved all of his special advisers bar one losing their job and a new special adviser unit being created between No. 10 and No. 11. Javid refused and as a result has left his position as Chancellor.
This is a surprising turn. It’s been clear for some time that the relationship between No. 10 and No. 11 was not harmonious. As I previously reported, Javid was not on good terms with senior No. 10 aides – including Dominic Cummings. However, the fact that he had a decent working relationship with the Prime Minister meant that he was expected to survive this reshuffle – and that was the plan as intended by No. 10 this morning. The restructuring of special advisers was proposed as a way of drawing a line over a series of negative stories that had been linked to the Treasury. One story that was particularly frowned upon emerged in the Daily Mail this week reporting that Cummings and Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds had had a falling out over the reshuffle. It was attributed to a ‘senior Treasury source’.
The special adviser restructuring is also part of a centralisation of power that has been in the works for some time. Since Javid entered No. 11 he has been haunted by the Whitehall nickname ‘chino’ – Chancellor in name only. It touches on the idea that it is really No. 10 making the big spending decisions and Javid is simply compliant. Today’s proposals were seen on the Treasury side as a step too far on these grounds. The concern was that the combined SpAd unit would lessen the authority of the Treasury further – handing even more power to No. 10. It’s also the case that Javid previously lost two aides previously as a result of clashes with 10 Downing Street. At the time, he was said to be livid and has been keen not to repeat the same mistakes.
Yet Javid’s resignation means these new proposals will go ahead. Javid’s deputy Rishi Sunak has been appointed as his successor. He has been heavily promoted and has a month to get to grips with his new brief before presenting his first Budget. Sunak has long been seen as a rising star and is the person in the Treasury who No. 10 preferred to deal with. Sunak will be helped by the new No. 10/No. 11 special adviser unit. Sunak is a Brexiteer who has good relations both with the Prime Minister and his team. One insider suggests that their relationship will be a friendly one similar to that of David Cameron and George Osborne. What’s clear is that today’s changes mean No. 10 has taken control.