|That Could Have Gone Better||
14 February 2020
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
Having won a substantial majority in December, and having delivered Brexit on January 31, one would have thought that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle would go smoothly. One would be wrong. Although he has strengthened his hand, Mr. Johnson has mostly strengthened the hand of Dominic Cummings, his Eminence Grise. He has lost his Chancellor, and the Northern Ireland portfolio passes from able hands to an untested pair. All of this concentrates power at Number 10, and that is where Mr. Cummings has Mr. Johnson's ear.
Mr Javid said, "Whilst I was very pleased that the prime minister wanted to reappoint me, I was unable to accept the conditions that he had attached, I felt I was left with no option other than to resign.
The idea, which came from Mr. Cummings, was to create a joint advisory team for the PM and Chancellor. In effect, this would have made Mr. Javid Chancellor in Name Only. Policy would flow from Number 10 Downing Street, and Number 11 could to the sums to support it.
Faisal Islam, the BBC economics editor, reported Mr. Javid, "had been reassured of his future in post, when I spoke to him 48 hours ago. He was planning not just the Budget, but also a Spending Review, and a finance white paper involving negotiations with the EU over the ongoing access of UK finance to the EU. His team had signalled the Budget was going to be a significant new chapter in UK economic policy. The first Budget of this government and its healthy majority, able to plan its own long term strategy."
His successor now has three weeks to get the Budget done unless the reshuffle forces a delay, which would look very bad. For much of it, he will have to rely on what is already in place, but also he will have to have help from the new joint advisory team. In other words, this may be the Chancellor's budget, but Mr. Cummings fingerprints will be all over it.
Rishi Sunak now has a problem of his own as the new Chancellor. He can let Mr. Cummings have his way, which was probably the plan all along, or he can try to prize some kind of power back for the Exchequer. In the case of the former, he owns all future economic misery (and Brexit has yet to hit the High Street) without having much say over how it happens. In the case of the latter, his head is on the chopping block.
Meanwhile, over at the Northern Ireland office, Julian Smith is out having completed successful negotiations on reviving the Stormont Assembly. In Ulster, they are not taking it well. Mark Edwards writes in the Belfast Telegraph, "Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill expressed concern over reports Northern Ireland Secretary Julian O'Neill was sacked over commitments in the power-sharing agreement to introduce legislation on legacy issues.
"While DUP leader Arlene Foster thanked Mr Smith for his help in getting devolution restored, the deputy first minister called on the British government to ensure that legacy issues are dealt with by the secretary of state." Not quite a vote of no confidence, yet that is hardly a ringing endorsement.
As reshuffles go, this was a messy one, and that often weighs on a government. That is something no government needs, especially this one.
© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.