Former chancellor Sajid Javid has delivered a biting indictment of Downing Street in his first statement to MPs since resigning.
Javid stunned Westminster by quitting as chancellor in the middle of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month. Amid simmering tensions between No. 10 and the Treasury, he said at the time that “no self-respecting minister” could accept the conditions the prime minister was imposing on his department – and was promptly replaced by Rishi Sunak.
In the House of Commons yesterday – a fortnight before the next Budget is announced by his successor – Javid gave a post-resignation statement “that exposed the conflict over the government’s economic policy”, says The Times.
He said the move to bring the Treasury under the close control of the PM weakened its abilities to act against irresponsible spending and urged Downing Street not to abandon the Conservative values of low taxes and tight control on borrowing.
With Johnson listening on the front benches, Javid said: “Advisers advise, ministers decide, and ministers decide on their advisers.”
After saying he did not want to reflect on individuals behind his decision to stand down, he added: “The comings and goings, if you will.”
Javid continued: “A chancellor, like all cabinet ministers, has to be able to give candid advice to a prime minister so he is speaking truth to power. I believe that the arrangement proposed would significantly inhibit that and it would not have been in the national interest.”
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Paul Waugh at the HuffPost said Javid’s “‘s**t sandwich’ will get the Tories worried”.
“Javid was in many ways pitch-perfect in his warning to Johnson,” says Waugh. “Making the independence of the Treasury, (and notably the Office for Budget Responsibility), an issue of protecting ‘institutions’ was a smart move. Saying that ‘Conservatives especially believe that no particular person, or even a Government, has a monopoly on the best ideas’ was equally shrewd. And his lines about speaking ‘truth to power’ and putting ‘the national interest’ first marked him out as the new heavyweight on the backbenches.”
Tom Peck at the The Independent agreed, saying: “Move over, Jeremy Corbyn, there’s a new opposition in the house – Tory ex-chancellor Sajid Javid.”
Javid spoke “with the relaxed air of a man who knows he has done the right thing” and made it “absolutely clear that, in his opinion, the merging of advisors between No 10 and the Treasury ‘is not in the national interest’”, says Peck.
The Financial Times labelled his speech as a “stinging attack”, but The Times was not so sure, saying Javid is “too genial and possibly still too ambitious to play the vengeful assassin”. The newspaper described his statement as less of a “stab in the back” and more of a “tickled tummy”.