Dom Cummings and the bitter war at the heart of government: Sajid Javid out in battle for control

Sajid Javid’s decision to quit today is the culmination of a bitter internal battle for control with Dominic Cummings – that the Chancellor ultimately lost.

The camps in No10 and No11 have been in a barely-concealed state of war for months, with increasingly brutal briefing.

Today’s ultimatum to Mr Javid to sack his closest team and accept aides answering to Mr Cummings is the culmination of a naked power grab by the maverick strategy chief.

Special advisers – known as Spads – have long acted as the voice of their ministers, representing their interests and determined to protect them and foster their careers.

But No10 is determined that the loyalty of Spads should be to Mr Johnson alone. 

In addition to Mr Javid, Justice Secretary Robert Jenrick was ordered to sack one of his advisers, Peter Cardwell, in order to keep his own job. 

Mr Cummings has been especially furious at the Treasury over a serious of briefings and leaks he blamed on ‘rogue’ operatives in No11.

Flashpoints have included the Budget in March, a ‘mansion tax’ and Mr Javid’s determination to push ahead with the HS2 rail link.

Mr Cummings is a long-term critic of the £106billion scheme, which he regards as a cash black hole.  

Sajid Javid pictured at the party conference in Manchester last September with his senior advisors including Tim Sculthorpe (right) 

The Prime Minister's chief aide has long been furious at the Treasury, accusing them of stalling on Boris Johnson's plans to increase spending to 'level-up' poorer parts of the UK

The Prime Minister’s chief aide has long been furious at the Treasury, accusing them of stalling on Boris Johnson’s plans to increase spending to ‘level-up’ poorer parts of the UK

The Chancellor’s six-strong team includes Mats Persson, a former head of the Open Europe think-tank and adviser to David Cameron – the ex-PM who once described Mr Cummings as ‘career psychopath’. 

Other aides include Samuel Coates, who previously worked at ConservativeHome, and media adviser Tim Sculthorpe.

Their jobs are tied to that of Mr Javid – meaning all have been automatically evicted from government with their boss. 

But Mr Javid clearly believed he could not carry on in his role while they were sacked – the choice that he was apparently confronted with.

Who is Dominic Cummings? 

Born in Durham and educated at Oxford University, Dominic Cummings  makes much of his northern roots though he is married to the daughter of an aristocrat.

The 48-year-old father-of-one rose to notoriety in politics first as an adviser to Michael Gove and then as campaign director at the official Brexit referendum campaign group.

Many will know him as the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the HBO/Channel 4 comedy-drama film Brexit, and for as his role in covering a red bus with the notorious £350 million NHS claim.

Mr Cummings has been credited with creating the ‘take back control’ slogan and criticised over the monetary figure advertised on the side of the bus which travelled the country.

He would later say the pledge, which was even dismissed by the UK’s chief statistician, was ‘necessary to win’.

The campaign group was also fined £61,000 for breaking the rules in the build-up to the vote.

Cummings is variously seen as a genius, a maverick, or a troublemaker.

He was once also labelled a ‘career psychopath’ by former prime minister David Cameron.

But Mr Cummings is not shy of firing off an insult himself.

In 2017, he described David Davis, then the Brexit secretary, as ‘thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus’.

Mr Johnson appointed Mr Cummings to his top team as senior adviser at Number 10 when he became Prime Minister in the summer of 2019.

The appointment was controversial, given that he was found to be in contempt of Parliament earlier in the year for refusing to give evidence to MPs investigating misinformation.

But Mr Cummings appears to enjoy controversy, deliberating cultivating a reputation as someone who does not play by the rules of conventional politics.  

It follows the unsavoury incident last year when his adviser Sonia Khan was summarily fired by Mr Cummings and frogmarched out of Downing Street for allegedly being in contact with friends of former Chancellor Philip Hammond. 

The move left Mr Javid ‘absolutely furious’ but No10 tried to defuse the row by insisting that reports of a rift between him and Mr Johnson were ‘grossly exaggerated’. 

In the more than six months since Mr Johnson became PM and brought him into the heart of his machine, Mr Cummings has waged a war on the Spad system.

A visible part of this was his bizarre January job advert in which he calls for ‘super-talented weirdos’ to apply to work at Number 10.

Writing on his personal blog, Mr Cummings sets out plans for a Downing Street shake-up in which maths and physics PhDs would mingle with ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’ and people who ‘fought their way out of appalling hell holes’.          

And last week he ordered a clampdown on advisers socialising with journalists in a bid to exert message discipline over the who of Government.  

Other spads were also vetoed by Mr Cummings. The hiring of Anita Boateng by Security Minister Brandon Lewis was blocked.  

And Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan was told her adviser at the Department of Education, Luke Tryl, could not move with her to her new department.  

The notoriously abrasive special adviser, who earlier this week appeared to suggest a team of cartoon superheroes called PJ Masks could do a better job than the then Cabinet, sometimes appears to relish confrontation, whether it is with senior politicians, civil servants or journalists.  

Despite smiling broadly for the cameras as he walked into Downing Street today, Mr Javid is understood to have been furious when told that he had to sack all his aides, and accept a team being imposed on him.  

He responded that would make him ‘Chancellor in name only’ or ‘Chino’ – a mocking moniker already applied to him by his enemies in Government.

Nick King, a former chief of staff to Mr Javid, said: ‘I worked for Sajid for years, was his first adviser and consider him a good friend. 

‘He inspires loyalty and is hugely loyal in return.

‘I’m not at all surprised he chose to stand by his team ahead of staying in position. 

‘Speaks to his character.’

With new Chancellor Rishi Sunak working with a new single team of special advisors drawn from a joint No 10/11 pool, the change effectively hands Mr Cummings and the PM a controlling stake in the Treasury.

Although Mr Cummings was not in the room during fraught discussions with Mr Johnson, sources said it was ‘obvious’ who was behind the move.  

Despite smiling broadly for the cameras as he walked into Downing Street, Mr Javid is understood to have been told that he had to sack all his aides

He has made no secret of his determination to shake things up in the corridors of power and has shown no sign of any concern about what enemies he makes along the way.

But being blamed for the departure of Boris Johnson’s first chancellor after less that six months in the job may come back to haunt him if Mr Javid, a rival of Mr Johnson’s for the Tory leadership last year, starts to make life difficult for his boss from the Tory backbenches.   

Mr Cummings and Mr Javid then clashed over infrastructure spending, especially in the North.

Last week the aide parked his tanks on the Treasury lawn by getting involved in Budget planning ahead of the fiscal showpiece on March 11.

Preparations for the major event – the first since Brexit at the end of January – are usually the sole preserve of the chancellor of the day.

But Mr Cummings was reported as trying to play a role in setting the government’s direction on tax and spending – something he will find even easier after today’s developments.

Sources told The Times that the PM’s top aide is working ‘pretty much full time’ on what should be included in the Budget and what should be targeted in the government spending review.

This afternoon, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘This must be a historical record with the government in crisis after just over two months in power.

‘Dominic Cummings has clearly won the battle to take absolute control of the Treasury and install his stooge as Chancellor.’

Mr Cummings clashed with Mr Javid in August when he fired Treasury special advisor Sonia Khan (right)  for allegedly misleading him over the extent of her contact with Phillip Hammond

Mr Cummings clashed with Mr Javid in August when he fired Treasury special advisor Sonia Khan (right)  for allegedly misleading him over the extent of her contact with Phillip Hammond

Mr Cummings has placed himself at the heart of the new administration and has made his presence felt in numerous areas.

But some ministers are privately upset by what they view as Mr Cumming’s ‘control freakery’.

He pushed for major spending announcements as soon as Mr Johnson became Prime Minister last year.

But Mr Javid ultimately won the battle over spending as Mr Johnson agreed to stick to a set of fairly tough fiscal rules.  

The ongoing row between aides in Number 10 and the Treasury was last week compared to conflict in the Middle East by an anonymous Whitehall official quoted by the Financial Times.

‘It’s become like the Israel-Palestine crisis: no one can pin down exactly when it started but it’s descended into retaliation after retaliation,’ the official said.  

Mr Javid headed home today after his bombshell resignation during the Cabinet reshuffle

Mr Javid headed home today after his bombshell resignation during the Cabinet reshuffle

Mr Javid’s his first planned Budget in November was cancelled as the Prime Minister pursued a snap election and Mr Javid would have been preparing for the parliamentary set-piece scheduled for March 11.

The 49-year-old father-of-four- is the shortest-serving chancellor since Iain Macleod, who died shortly after taking office in 1970, according to the Institute for Government.

In public, he identifies as the son of a bus driver, whose father arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s with just a pound in his pocket, and to colleagues, he is The Saj.

He was a tough-talking home secretary whose hard stance on jihadi bride Shamima Begum’s pleas to be allowed back in the UK boosted his popularity among some Tories, but horrified others – particularly after Ms Begum’s newborn son later died in a Syrian refugee camp.

After making it to the final four in the race to replace Theresa May as Tory leader last year, he dropped out and subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson.

Born in Rochdale and raised in Bristol, he went to a state school and studied economics and politics at Exeter University.

He became MP for Bromsgrove in 2010, leaving behind a career in finance that put him on the trajectory to Number 11.