2020 Reshuffle: Cummings and goings – this reshuffle was not about personnel per se, but about power


By Lacey Waters, Associate

Considering a mini reshuffle was conducted just under two months ago (yes, it does seem longer) we all knew a post-Brexit one would be somewhat more substantial. Just, perhaps, not as substantial as it panned out. 

It all started out relatively drab. Political journalists stood outside Number 10 on a cold February morning, backs to the door, becoming marginally excited every time it opened only to be immediately disappointed to see it was just a random staffer emerging. As ever, there had been hints in the news who was for the cull, and generally, the hints were correct. Esther McVey, out. Andrea Leadsom, out. Geoffrey Cox, out. Julian Smith, seemingly the nicest man in the world judging by every single person lining up to speak to the BBC today and yesterday, out. Then, the bastions of BoJo’s Government – Raab, Javid, Patel – enter. Some time passes. More time. They’re still in there, the journos say. Still? What do you mean still? How long does it take to say someone absolutely, definitely has a job? What are they doing? This certainly is one of the dullest reshuffles since the last dullest reshuffle. And so it continues. Sajid Javid, out.

Hold up. Sajid Javid, what? What do you mean he’s out? Well, I’m so glad you asked because there is absolutely no way you already know this. It hasn’t been reported constantly for the last day and a half. Or blogged about at all. Quite shocking really. Get comfy, kids. 

The Saj has left the Cabinet. Of his own free will. Legend has it he was given the perfectly reasonable and fair option of staying in the great position of Chancellor of the Exchequer on one condition – that he fire all of his Special Advisers. Naturally, he refused to do so, saying ‘no self-respecting Minister’ could have accepted these conditions. 

Now, we may have to rewind a little bit. Tensions between Number 10 and Number 11 have been somewhat tetchy of late. Ever since August 2019. These things can happen when one Special Adviser – Boris Johnson’s Dominic Cummings – brutally and publically fires another Special Adviser – Sajid Javid’s Sonia Khan – for having the audacity to apparently have messages from a journalist on her phone. Sent from, apparently, the journalist’s very own private number. Madness. You truly cannot get the staff these days, can you?  Khan was then marched out of Downing Street by armed guards. You can see why this may cause tensions, especially as it seems Javid was not even allowed to intervene. Ever since then, it has been a little frosty. Javid has often been referred to as the CHINO – Chancellor in name only – amid whispers Number 10 and a certain Special Adviser are actually the ones ruling the Treasury. 

Anyway, back to present-ish day Saj. Legend further has it that Number 10 wish to amalgamate both their Special Advisers and those of the Treasury, effectively bringing them all under one roof like one big happy family. Definitely not so Number 10 know what they are doing or advising at all times. So, Javid resigned. Who could possibly have known he would do such a thing when his Advisers were indirectly threatened with a sacking? Not me, not you, not anybody. Although, when I say ‘not you’ what I actually mean is ‘not you, unless you happen to be Dominic Cummings reading this’  which I very much doubt. 

Now if – as we are so often told by the media – Dominic Cummings really is one of the biggest strategic geniuses of our time, are we really to believe that nobody within Number 10 would have seen the resignation coming? Not even the man who reads all those books about getting ahead in business and outsmarting your opponents?

What better way to get rid of someone without actively firing them in case that makes you (or in this scenario, your boss) look like the bad guy. You poke them just enough until they refuse to take it anymore and resign. So, when I said Javid left ‘of his own free will’, what I actually meant was ‘technically yes, but definitely not’. 

The classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ manoeuvre. 

Classic strategic foresight. 

Classic Dom.

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