Boris Johnson was once asked to name his favourite cinematic moment, and coolly replied: “The multiple retribution killings at the end of The Godfather”.
Last summer the newly appointed PM performed the political equivalent of that scene, by ending the careers of 17 rival ministers. While this afternoon’s sackings are in no way on that scale, they are just as calculating and brutal.
The summary dismissal of well liked and successful ministers for minor transgressions sent out a strong message in Westminster — it is Number 10’s way or the high way.
Take Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith. He succeeded where two predecessors had failed in restoring power-sharing at Stormont and earned plaudits from nationalist and unionist politicians alike. But he now finds himself without a job. Why? His sin was to suggest a no-deal Brexit would harm the economy in Northern Ireland.
Then there’s the biggest exit of the day, Sajid Javid – who became the first Chancellor in five decades not to deliver a Budget. He was placed in an impossible position by Downing Street. Told to sack all his advisers and aides or take the plunge himself, Mr Javid did the honourable thing.
Other vocal and confident ministers such as Andrea Leadsom and Geoffrey Cox also lost out in favour of keen, young, loyal MPs.
What is the theme here? Control. The Downing Street Machiavel Dominic Cummings has been keen from day one to centralise as much power as possible, and now Mr Johnson has granted him his wish. With Mr Javid and his advisers gone, Number 10 will have oversight of the Treasury and will play a much more prominent role in spending decisions and in turn have even more influence over Government departments.
AS IT HAPPENED: Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle
None of this should come as a surprise of course. The referendum message was “take back control” and Mr Cummings is determined to enforce that mantra.
It was only a couple of weeks ago, for example, that journalists from less sympathetic news outlets were blocked from attending briefings at the behest of Cummings.
Mr Johnson, for now at least, seems content to ride this roller-coaster, but with powerful enemies now on the backbenches and an angered press corps the wheels may come off a lot sooner than he thinks.