The U.K.’s finance minister Sajid Javid has unexpectedly resigned from his post in Boris Johnson’s government, as the U.K. Prime Minister embarks on the first shakeup of his top team since his emphatic election victory in December.
Javid was reportedly told to sack his entire team of advisors to keep his job. Instead, he chose to resign.
Javid’s resignation could mean more power concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister. Johnson appointed an inexperienced minister, Rishi Sunak, as Chancellor in Javid’s place. And the U.K. Treasury’s advisory team is now reportedly set to be merged with one in the Prime Minister’s office, 10 Downing Street.
Ahead of Johnson’s reshuffle on Thursday, government sources briefed the media that the changes would be minor. Javid’s resignation changes that.
The son of a Pakistani bus driver who rose through the ranks of the Conservative Party, Javid was Home Secretary (interior minister) before being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer (the formal title for Britain’s finance minister) when Johnson became Prime Minister in July. He had run for the top job himself in the Conservatives’ internal leadership contest over the summer of 2019, and was tipped by some for a future role leading the party.
Replacing him as finance minister — just four weeks ahead of the U.K. budget announcement, the biggest date in the Chancellor’s calendar — is Sunak, former chief secretary to the Treasury and a rising star in the Conservative Party.
The promotion is a steep one for Sunak, a Johnson loyalist. In his former role, Sunak would attend cabinet meetings but his position was not that of a cabinet minister. Now, he takes on arguably the second most powerful position in the U.K. government.
Javid’s resignation will cast fresh scrutiny on the role of Johnson’s top advisor, Dominic Cummings, a divisive figure in Westminster who wants swingeing reforms of the U.K. government system, and has been unafraid to sack ministerial aides —and now, apparently, ministers — if they refuse to cooperate.
The opposition Labour Party was quick to criticize the events of Thursday morning. “This is a historical record,” said John McDonnell, Sunak’s opposite number in the Labour Party. “A government in chaos within weeks of an election. It’s clear Dominic Cummings has won the battle to take absolute control of the Treasury and has installed his stooge as the Chancellor.”
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