News, Culture & Society

No10 chief Dominic Cummings in row over sacking Sajid Javid aide

Sajid Javid only found out his media adviser had been sacked by maverick No10 chief Dominic Cummings after she was frogmarched out of Downing Street by police, it was revealed today.

Sonia Khan was dramatically axed after being accused of staying in touch with people close to her former boss, Philip Hammond.

An extraordinary showdown with Mr Cummings in No10 last night ended up with the Chancellor’s adviser being frogmarched out of the building, still protesting her innocence.

Mr Cummings apparently demanded to inspect both her phones before immediately firing her.

In a damning slight to Mr Javid, who kept Ms Khan on at No10 after taking over from Philip Hammond, he was only told after the dramatic events. 

There was deep anger today at the increasingly vicious culture being imposed by Mr Cummings. 

There has been a huge exodus of advisers from Whitehall since Mr Johnson installed him as his chief aide, with sweeping powers to mobilise the government machine to secure Brexit. 

One former adviser told MailOnline Mr Cummings increasingly ‘looks like a bully’, and said his conduct raised questions for the PM.

They also expressed bewilderment that Mr Javid had not stepped in to take control of the row.  

The aftermath of the confrontation at 8pm last night was witnessed by other special advisers who were attending a meeting in Downing Street.

According to one official, Miss Khan was told by Mr Cummings that she was dismissed on the spot, ordered to hand over her mobile phone and told that her Whitehall security pass was cancelled with immediate effect.

‘The cops marched her out of No 10 while she protested her innocence. It was incredible,’ the official said.

Dominic Cummings (pictured in Westminster today) confronted Sonia Khan, the former special adviser to Philip Hammond

Dominic Cummings (pictured in Westminster today) confronted Sonia Khan, the former special adviser to Philip Hammond

Ms Khan pictured right with Mr Hammond at Conservative Party conference last autumn

Ms Khan pictured right with Mr Hammond at Conservative Party conference last autumn

Since Mr Johnson entered No 10, Mr Cummings, who was the mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, has earned a reputation for stopping leaks by Government aides.

How Sonia Khan became the latest victim of ‘Spad Jihad’

September 2018 – Sonia Khan, a former TaxPayers’ Alliance campaigner, becomes media adviser to Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Despite being regarded as a Eurosceptic, Ms Khan earns a reputation as a tenacious defender of her boss. 

July 2019 – Boris Johnson takes over as PM, and Mr Hammond departs warning he will speak out against No Deal from the backbenches.

Maverick new No10 chief Dominic Cummings issues a ‘one strike and you’re out’ warning to advisers over leaks. 

Amid a mass cull of Spads and to the surprise of many, Ms Khan is kept on at the Treasury despite her previous ties to Mr Hammond. 

August 18 – The Sunday Times publishes leaked details of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer assessment of No Deal Brexit fallout. 

The leak sparks fury in No10, with sources pointing the finger at Mr Hammond. 

August 25 – Mr Hammond writes to Mr Johnson demanding an apology for accusations that he leaked the documents. He said it had emerged they were dated August – after he and other Remainer ministers left government.

August 28 – The PM’s controversial plan of proroguing Parliament in mid-September is leaked before the Queen has been informed. 

August 29 – Ms Khan is dramatically sacked in a showdown meeting with Dominic Cummings. 

Sources say she was accused of lying about her ongoing contacts with people close to Mr Hammond, but admit she is not suspected of leaking the Yellowhammer documents. 

The sacking, revealed by the Mail’s Simon Walters, comes after the sensational disclosure of No Deal preparations earlier this month, ahead of Mr Johnson’s debut on the world stage as Prime Minister.

However, it is understood that No10 does not believe Ms Khan was responsible for the leak. 

The dossier, which predicted food, fuel and medicine shortages if Britain left without a deal, appeared in the Sunday Times on August 18. 

Under the codename Operation Yellowhammer, it warned of three months of chaos at ports, clashes with EU fishing vessels and a crisis for social care.

Downing Street claimed the forecasts were the work of the previous administration, out of date and showed a worst-case scenario.

A No 10 source blamed former frontbenchers led by Mr Hammond. It said the dossier, apparently written by Cabinet Office officials, was ‘from when ministers were blocking what needed to be done to get ready to leave and the funds were not available’.

The source claimed: ‘It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders.’

Ms Khan’s sacking comes days after Mr Hammond gave an interview saying No Deal would be just as much of a ‘betrayal’ as not leaving. 

He accused No 10 of smearing former ministers by suggesting they had released details of Operation Yellowhammer.

After his comments, it emerged the dossier was from August 2019 – after Mr Hammond and other pro-Remain cabinet ministers were replaced by Mr Johnson.

In his letter to the PM, the former chancellor said it was clear the document ‘would not have been available to any former minister who is not serving in the current administration’.

Mr Hammond said: ‘Accordingly, I am writing on behalf of all former ministers in the last administration to ask you to withdraw these allegations which question our integrity, acknowledge that no former minister could have leaked this document, and apologise for the misleading briefing from No10.’

Labour called for the document to be published in full in order to inform public debate about the implications of No Deal.

Ms Khan declined to comment today.

Ms Khan was recruited as a special adviser by Mr Hammond last September. She had worked for former international trade secretary Liam Fox and the Taxpayers’ Alliance. 

War of words: Boris Johnson and ex-chancellor Philip Hammond have traded blows over No Deal

A diagram showing what could happen next after Boris Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued from mid-September until a Queen’s Speech in mid-October


Comments are closed.