Boris Johnson Feared He And Sajid Javid Would End Up Like Tony Blair And Gordon Brown

    “The prime minister wants to have a relationship with his chancellor like Cameron and Osborne, rather than Blair and Brown or May and Hammond,” a Number 10 source said.

    Boris Johnson feared his relationship with Sajid Javid would descend into the “TeeBeeGeeBees” turf wars of the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown years unless he brought the Treasury to heel, allies of the prime minister have told BuzzFeed News.

    In an extraordinary hourlong meeting in Downing Street on Thursday morning, Johnson offered Javid the chance to stay on in his job on the condition that he sacked all five of his special advisers, after what Number 10 sources claimed were a series of “naive briefings” to the media by the chancellor’s team.

    In a dramatic assertion of control over the Treasury, the prime minister told Javid he had to replace his aides with a new joint Number 10–Number 11 political team that would be fully integrated and work closely together. The move, according to a Number 10 source, was to ensure the type of close working relationship David Cameron and George Osborne had when they were next-door neighbours in Downing Street.

    Javid told Johnson that no minister could countenance being forced to remove all of their advisers and that he had been left with no choice to resign.

    Allies of Javid believe Johnson presented him with a fait accompli and that the prime minister made a deliberately unreasonable demand in order to force him out. They accused Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings of plotting for weeks to have Javid removed and said the former chancellor personally blamed Cummings for blowing up his political career and throwing the government into turmoil.

    Johnson’s friends insist that he wanted Javid to stay on and that the prime minister was “genuinely surprised” that he quit on principle over his special advisers. They said the PM thought the outcome was “a great shame” and he had a “heavy heart”.

    “The door will always be open for Saj to return to frontline politics,” a Number 10 source said.

    “The prime minister wants to have a relationship with his chancellor like Cameron and Osborne, rather than Blair and Brown or [Theresa] May and [Philip] Hammond,” they said.

    “This is about delivery. If we want to meet our ambitious targets on levelling up the country, Number 10 and Number 11 need to be one team, like Dave and George, without a fag paper between them.”

    Before Thursday’s explosive showdown, Javid’s allies had expected that he would merely be asked to agree to a restructuring of his adviser team, rather than made to fire them. They thought he would resign if Johnson and Cummings attempted to remove his aides.

    Allies of Johnson said they thought Javid would at the least negotiate over which of his special advisers could stay, and claim he genuinely did not expect Javid would give up his job over it.

    Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News revealed how Javid and Cummings were at war over what Javid’s allies called the “control freakery” of Johnson’s top aide. At the time, Javid’s team feared Cummings was plotting to have him sacked and replace him with Rishi Sunak. Today, Sunak was appointed as his replacement.

    The relationship between Number 10 and Number 11 soured in recent months. While Johnson and Javid themselves had a “great relationship” until the end, according to a Number 10 source, the two men’s aides were at loggerheads.

    Johnson’s allies say Javid was never the same after Cummings brutally sacked his advisers Sonia Khan and Olivia Robey last year, and that he had been “blinded” by hatred of Cummings ever since.

    Those tensions boiled over last month when Javid’s special advisers briefed journalists that Javid had won a battle with Cummings to proceed with High Speed 2.

    Javid’s team privately insist that they have done nothing wrong and some of the tension with Number 10 was blown out of proportion by the media playing the two sides against each other. They acknowledge, however, that there was friction caused by the fact that they wouldn’t just roll over when there were differences in views on issues such as government spending levels.

    They also branded Cummings a “hypocrite” for clamping down on special advisers talking to the press when he himself briefs the media more than anyone else.

    But for Number 10, the HS2 briefing meant the position of Javid’s aides was untenable.

    Sunak, Javid’s replacement as chancellor, is seen by Johnson as the main rising star of the Conservative party, and unwaveringly loyal to the prime minister. But others in the government see him as a patsy to Cummings and said that while Javid had been dubbed “CHINO” — chancellor in name only — that moniker would truly apply to Sunak.

    Cummings had wanted Sunak to be made chancellor as soon as possible, whereas Johnson’s personal preference was to put him in charge of another department and then hand him the keys to the Treasury in a few years. Sunak’s quick ascension will be seen as a major win for Cummings.

    BuzzFeed News understands the new Number 10–Number 11 unit will formalise the close working relationship that Cameron and Osborne had while in office.

    Johnson and Sunak will appoint aides to serve in the unit, including economics policy advisers and communications staff. It will have “authority” over the rest of Whitehall, a government source said.