Boris Johnson is facing an extraordinary Commons rebellion by Tory MPs angered by the ruthless behaviour of his all-powerful adviser Dominic Cummings.
The resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid – who was effectively ousted by Mr Cummings – has stoked anger on the backbenches over what one MP described as the ‘regal arrogance’ of the ‘court of King Boris’.
Now a group of rebels are planning to vote against measures in the Finance Bill when it is introduced into the Commons after the Budget, which is due to be delivered next month by new Chancellor Rishi Sunak following Mr Javid’s shock defenestration in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.
With a majority of 80, Mr Johnson does not need to fear losing the votes – but the rebels say they are determined to remind him that he is not an ‘absolute monarch’.
Boris Johnson is facing an extraordinary Commons rebellion by Tory MPs angered by the ruthless behaviour of his all-powerful adviser Dominic Cummings
It comes amid growing disquiet among Whitehall colleagues about Mr Cummings’ behaviour.
Mr Javid quit after Mr Cummings ordered his advisers to be sacked and replaced by Downing Street appointees as part of his power grab over No 11. It was the culmination of long-running tensions between Mr Javid and Vote Leave architect Mr Cummings, dating back to Mr Javid’s declaration in The Mail on Sunday before the 2016 EU referendum that he would vote Remain – despite holding pro-Brexit views.
The situation deteriorated rapidly over recent months after No 10 and No 11 engaged in a briefing war over economic policies. Fatally for Mr Javid, he also clashed with Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill – whose complicity was required when No 10 moved to assert its control over the Treasury by establishing a ‘joint economic unit’.
Mr Sedwill was infuriated at the start of last year’s Election campaign when Mr Javid’s advisers tried to use Treasury officials to calculate the cost of Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promises, in violation of the civil service’s traditional neutrality: the final figure of £1.2 trillion was subsequently splashed over newspaper front pages.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid leaving his south London home following the Cabinet reshuffle
The backbenchers, who number between 20 and 30 and do not wish to be identified, say they plan to vote against expected measures in the Bill closing tax loopholes for the self-employed as a protest at Mr Johnson’s promotion of ‘compliant yes-men’ and ‘ministerial retreads’. More than 80 per cent of the new Government frontbench in the Commons were existing Ministers or had served as Ministers previously.
George Freeman, who was sacked by Mr Johnson as a Transport Minister, criticised the Prime Minister in his resignation letter, saying the country needed a Government ‘that supports its Ministers’. He added: ‘If taking back control means iron-clad centralisation via Whitehall control, it will fail to deliver the real empowerment we need and promised.’
Another MP said the backbench anger was ‘genuine and justified’. He added: ‘It looks as if the criteria for a job is a proven track record of being ready to do whatever Boris – or more likely, Dominic Cummings – tells you.
Boris Johnson’s key adviser Dominic Cummings leaving his north London home. Mr Javid quit after Mr Cummings ordered his advisers to be sacked and replaced by Downing Street appointees as part of his power grab over No 11
Tensions over Mr Cummings’ treatment of the aides boiled over on Friday night when he was confronted about his ‘cruel’ and ‘unkind’ behaviour by defence adviser Lynn Davidson (pictured)
‘We all thought Boris was leading a new-broom, new-look administration which would bring about real change in the country. But instead, it looks like the main qualifying criteria to be a Minister under Boris is that you already were under him, Theresa May or David Cameron.
Has the first of Dominic Cummings ‘weirdos’ been hired?
Downing Street is braced for a row over a controversial adviser brought in by Boris Johnson’s right-hand man Dominic Cummings.
Andrew Sabisky, 27, wrote on Mr Cummings’ website in 2014: ‘One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty. Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.’
A self-described ‘super forecaster’, Mr Sabisky, has been brought in to No 10 as a contractor following an appeal for ‘assorted weirdos’ to work for the Government. On another blog post discussing female genital mutilation, he claimed: ‘It is still unclear to what extent FGM represents a serious risk to young girls, raised in the UK, of certain minority group origins. Much of the hue and cry looks more like a moral panic.’
His comments were made in response to the Home Affairs Select Committee calling the issue a ‘national scandal’.
Since his appointment, Mr Sabisky has deleted several tweets, including one dismissing female Labour politicians Yvette Cooper, Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long Bailey as ‘dim’.
In another tweet, Mr Sabisky said: ‘I am always straight up in saying that women’s sport is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.’
A self-described ‘super forecaster,’ Andrew Sabisky, (pictured) has been brought in to No 10 as a contractor following an appeal for ‘assorted weirdos’ to work for the Government
‘Plus, it helps if you’ve demonstrated you can take orders from civil servants, as it was in the past, and from Dominic Cummings, as it is now.’
The MP added: ‘You ask for something from a Minister and they’ll say: ‘Can’t do that, breaks the rules, civil servants will never wear it.’ Mention Cummings likes it and the chance is you’ll get a phone call later saying it’s all agreed. It’s not one particular batch of MPs that’s being ignored – there are very good people elected in 2010, 2015 and 2017 who for some reason don’t pass the smell test of Boris or Cummings.
‘The rebellion will be about putting a marker down to Boris that we’re not cannon fodder.
‘Given his words about Brexit and restoring the importance of our Parliament, he’d be wise to pay attention to it.’
Allies of Mr Johnson hit back last night by claiming the ‘absurd’ attacks were nothing more than the usual ‘sour grapes’ from people not given jobs last week.
But former Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Forsyth agreed that Mr Johnson should put Mr Cummings ‘back in his box’. Lord Forsyth said: ‘The idea of Dominic Cummings having meetings with 100 special advisers or so, and telling them what to do, is not a very good thing for the good conduct of government or for democracy. I don’t think it’s helpful.’ In a bid to quell growing concern, Mr Johnson barred Mr Cummings from being present while he fired – and then hired – members of his frontbench team during the reshuffle.
After Ministers had been appointed by the PM in the Cabinet room, some – including Justice Secretary Robert Buckland – were ordered to a side room to meet Mr Cummings.
One Cabinet source said: ‘There was a b******ing list, with Dom tearing strips off those he did not like, even if they had just been lavished with praise by the PM.’
Tensions over Mr Cummings’ treatment of the aides boiled over on Friday night when he was confronted about his ‘cruel’ and ‘unkind’ behaviour by defence adviser Lynn Davidson.
She accused Mr Cummings of using previous meetings to humiliate advisers.
Mr Cummings initially defended his robust approach but conceded he would ‘go away and think about’ what she had said.
He then admitted that other colleagues in Downing Street had also criticised his behaviour.