Watch: No self-respecting minister would accept PM’s conditions – Javid (PA)
Boris Johnson began his fateful meeting with Sajid Javid yesterday by showering him with praise.
As the two men sat in the Downing Street Cabinet room around the famous coffin-shaped table, Mr Johnson told the Chancellor he was ‘the right man for the job’.
The Prime Minister set out a vision of the two men working together to ‘level up’ the economy.
But then he cut to the chase – the job was on offer only if Mr Javid agreed to sack his entire team of political advisers.
Mr Johnson cited a series of Treasury briefings which angered No 10, including one in which the department effectively confirmed the go-ahead for HS2 weeks before it was due to be announced.
There was a danger, he said, of relations between No 10 and No 11 deteriorating to the level of the Blair-Brown years when the infamous TB-GB rows paralysed the New Labour government.
The PM said they had to be ‘more like Cameron and Osborne’, with Downing Street and the Treasury working ‘hand in glove’.
And the Prime Minister repeatedly told Mr Javid that he wanted to ‘start afresh’ without interference from Treasury advisers.
But Mr Javid stood his ground, saying it would be bad for the Government if the Chancellor and Treasury were ‘neutered’.
The Prime Minister suggested he take time to think it through. Mr Javid was shown to a room where a senior Cabinet Office official talked him through No 10’s plans for a new ‘joint’ team of economic advisers based not in the Treasury, but Downing Street.
The PM’s chief of staff Sir Eddie Lister and chief whip Mark Spencer also tried to talk the Chancellor round.
But it was a humiliation too far.
The ambush was not a total surprise. A few days earlier, a well-briefed article on the grassroots Tory website warned that the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings wanted to sack the Chancellor’s two most powerful aides.
The article prompted Mr Javid to discuss the possibility of an ultimatum with close friends, who agreed he could not put up with being defenestrated by No 10.
‘We agreed there was no point carrying on if he was left with no authority,’ one friend said.
So when he returned to the Cabinet room his mind was made up.
He angrily told the PM that ‘no self-respecting minister’ could take the job under those conditions, let alone the Chancellor.
Mr Johnson made a final bid to change his mind, inviting him into his office for a private chat.
The PM is said to have made a ‘heartfelt plea’ for him to remain, but to no avail.
Minutes later, Mr Javid walked out of No 10 as the first Chancellor in decades to never deliver a Budget – and blowing a hole in the PM’s carefully planned reshuffle.
Friends of the Chancellor say the seeds of yesterday’s events go back months, with Mr Cummings refusing to respect his independence.
In August, the adviser infuriated him by sacking his aide Sonia Khan without consulting him – a move that resulted in a large pay out.
Sources in Downing Street gave Mr Javid the mocking nickname ‘Chino’, standing for Chancellor In Name Only.
Mr Javid, who had a good personal relationship with Mr Johnson, protested. During the election campaign he sought – and got – a public guarantee that his job was safe, following briefings that he was just keeping the seat warm for rising star Rishi Sunak. At a CBI event in November, the PM gave an ‘absolutely categorical assurance’ that Mr Javid would keep his job, adding: ‘I think he’s doing a fantastic job.’
But Mr Cummings continued to chip away and argued that Mr Javid, his aides and their attachment to Treasury orthodoxy meant the Government would struggle to fulfil its promises to rebalance the economy.
And the Chancellor and Mr Cummings reportedly clashed again last month over the appointment of the new governor of the Bank of England.
Mr Cummings wanted to promote the bank’s chief economist Andy Haldane, who he felt was in tune with the Government. But he was outmanoeuvred by Mr Javid, who pushed through the appointment of Andrew Bailey.
Mr Cummings was also reportedly angered by the Chancellor’s decision to back HS2, a project he privately described as a ‘disaster zone’ but is now going ahead.
Mr Javid’s allies believe Mr Cummings was against him from the start. ‘This is about Cummings wanting total control,’ a friend said. ‘But it’s true that he never liked Saj. Whether it was because he wasn’t a Brexiteer from the beginning, or because he didn’t go to Oxbridge I don’t know. He didn’t like him and in this Government if he doesn’t like you, that’s it.’
Mr Javid put on a brave face yesterday, retreating to his home with his sacked advisers where they ordered food from burger joint Five Guys.
But in a brief televised clip and a letter of resignation, he made his anger plain. He urged the PM to ensure the Treasury ‘retains as much credibility as possible’ and warned of the dangers of surrounding himself with yes-men.
In a parting shot at Mr Cummings, he urged the PM to pick advisers ‘that reflect the character and integrity you would wish to be associated with’.
The Prime Minister and his chief adviser got their way. But they have made a powerful enemy in the process.
Who is in Boris Johnson’s new-look Cabinet
Chancellor: Rishi Sunak
Foreign Secretary: Dominic Raab
Home Secretary: Priti Patel
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Michael Gove
Justice Secretary: Robert Buckland
Defence Secretary: Ben Wallace
Health Secretary: Matt Hancock
Business Secretary: Alok Sharma
Trade Secretary: Liz Truss
Work and Pensions Secretary: Therese Coffey
Education Secretary: Gavin Williamson
Environment Secretary: George Eustice
Housing Secretary: Robert Jenrick
Transport Secretary: Grant Shapps
Culture Secretary: Oliver Dowden
International Development Secretary: Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Leader of the House of Lords: Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Northern Ireland Secretary: Brandon Lewis
Scottish Secretary: Alister Jack
Welsh Secretary: Simon Hart
Attorney General: Suella Braverman
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Stephen Barclay
Minister without Portfolio: Amanda Milling
Paymaster General: Penny Mordaunt
Chief Whip: Mark Spencer