Sajid Javid quit as chancellor after Boris Johnson set conditions “any self-respecting minister” would reject, he said, as several senior heads rolled in a dramatic Cabinet reshuffle.
The Prime Minister ordered Mr Javid to fire his closest aides and replace them with advisers chosen by Number 10 if he wanted to remain in post – conditions he said he was “unable to accept”.
The former chancellor chose to quit instead and was replaced by his former deputy at the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, in the biggest shock of Mr Johnson’s shake-up of his ministerial team.
Speaking outside his home, Mr Javid told reporters: “I was unable to accept those conditions and I do not believe any self-respecting minister would accept those conditions.”
And in his resignation letter, he told Mr Johnson he believed it was “important as leaders to have trusted teams that reflect the character and integrity that you would wish to be associated with”.
The bombshell – less than a month before the Budget – follows tensions between the ex-chancellor and the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
In August, Mr Cummings had fired Mr Javid’s aide Sonia Khan and it appears Number 10 wanted to go further in keeping a closer eye on him.
Downing Street refused to guarantee that next month’s Budget would go ahead as scheduled, with a spokesman saying only that “extensive preparations have already been carried out for the Budget and they will continue at pace”.
Mr Javid’s departure came after:
– Julian Smith was unceremoniously dumped as Northern Ireland secretary
– Andrea Leadsom was sacked as business secretary
– Theresa Villiers lost her job as environment secretary
– Geoffrey Cox was sacked as attorney general
– Esther McVey lost her job as housing minister
Along with the ministerial exits, the reshuffle – which Downing Street insiders had predicted would be “conventional” before the row with Mr Javid – included promotions for MPs who are highly rated by Number 10.
Alok Sharma was promoted from international development to become the new Business Secretary and he will also be minister for the COP26 UN climate summit, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan joins the Cabinet as International Development Secretary, having previously been a defence minister.
Oliver Dowden has become a full Cabinet member as Culture Secretary, having previously attended the meetings as paymaster general.
George Eustice was promoted to Environment Secretary from his previous role in the same department.
Brandon Lewis was appointed as Northern Ireland Secretary.
Former Brexit minister Suella Braverman returns to the Government as Attorney General.
Ex-Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay replaces Mr Sunak as Treasury Chief Secretary.
Amanda Milling was made Conservative Party chairman – a role in which she will attend Cabinet as a minister without portfolio.
Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt will return to Government as Paymaster General in the Cabinet Office.
Most of the key players, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, retained their positions.
Until Mr Javid’s exit, the most surprising move by the Prime Minister had been the sacking of Mr Smith just weeks after brokering the deal that restored the power-sharing administration at Stormont.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Smith was “one of Britain’s finest politicians of our time”.
Speculation about Mr Smith’s position centred on the terms of the Stormont deal, amid Tory concerns it could pave the way for prosecutions of British soldiers.
But allies of the axed minister said it was “absolute crap” to suggest Mr Johnson and Number 10 had not been kept informed of the process and details of the deal.
Although female ministers were axed in the reshuffle, Downing Street indicated there would not be a reduction in the number of women around the Cabinet table.
Former culture secretary Baroness Morgan had already said she was leaving her role, while Mrs Leadsom, Ms Villiers and Ms McVey were all sacked.