Prime Minister Johnson reaffirms control of the UK government and Treasury resigns

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LONDON, February 13 (Reuters). British Finance Minister Sajid Javid resigned Thursday. This was a surprising move that underlined Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s desire to get the government under control by throwing away a minister who refused to adhere to the line.

Johnson, who wanted to minimize any reshuffle from the cabinet reshuffle, quickly appointed Javid’s deputy Rishi Sunak, a loyal Prime Minister supporter who was often put on camera to sell government policies.

Johnson’s team had carefully choreographed the reshuffle and presented it as an opportunity to promote new talent, especially among women, and to reward loyal supporters for realizing his vision for Britain beyond Brexit.

But the finance minister’s resignation – which some commentators said could have been sought by Johnson’s team – due to a dispute over Javid’s adviser added to the picture that the prime minister will not tolerate dissent in his government.

“He refused the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister),” said a source near Javid.

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The source said Johnson told Javid he should fire his advisers and replace them with advisers from the Prime Minister’s Downing Street office. “The Chancellor said no self-respecting minister would accept these conditions.”

Johnson was not expected to change the hardest hit positions in his government, but most saw even the smallest changes in order as a sign that he wanted to step up his power.

His dismissal of Northern Irish Minister Julian Smith, who had helped mediate the restoration of government in the UK province just a month ago, has sparked criticism from politicians north and south of the Irish border.

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Smith, who was responsible for parliamentary discipline for Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, was the first minister to lose his job in the reshuffle. Minister of Economics Andrea Leadsom and Environment Minister Theresa Villiers joined him.


Ultra-loyal Alok Sharma, a former Minister for International Development, has been appointed new Minister of Economy and Head of the COP26 climate summit when the world’s leaders will travel to Scotland in November.

But it was Javid’s move that shook the “business as usual” look Johnson wanted to portray.

Johnson’s aides had previously downplayed suggestions based on Johnson’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings’ well-known desire for a radical government restructuring that there would be major changes.

Late last night, a source in his office said the prime minister wanted the “reshuffle to lay the foundations for the government now and in the future” and promote new talent, especially women.

It was clear that loyalty was important for Johnson to keep his agenda and keep the promises he made in the run-up to the December 12 elections, in which he won a large majority.

But opposition politicians said the reshuffle was a mess.

“This is a historic record. A government in chaos within weeks of an election,” said John McDonnell, spokesman for the opposition’s main Labor Party.

“It is clear that Dominic Cummings won the battle for absolute control over the Treasury and used his henchman as chancellor.” (Additional reporting by William James; editing by Gareth Jones and Stephen Addison)


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