Just four weeks after his party convincingly won the UK general election, prime minister Boris Johnson has sacked nine cabinet members including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid (their equivalent of the U S treasury secretary) and replaced them with people whom Johnson thinks will be more loyal to him. Javid’s replacement Rishi Sunak only entered parliament in 2015 and was until recently a hedge fund manager. Javid himself had an 18-year career in banking ending as managing director of Deutsche Bank. Johnson’s dedication to serving the interests of the financial sector is clearly in view.
Technically, Javid resigned rather than being fired but he resigned because he was faced with the demand that he replace his special advisors with those who would be selected and under the control of Johnson, an erosion of ministerial prerogatives that no cabinet member could accept without looking utterly humiliated.
This is a classic Trump move, to surround himself with people noted more for their loyalty to him personally rather than their competence. The catch, as we have seen so clearly with Trump, is that once you go down this road, no amount of groveling is enough and even the most obsequious of toadies will find themselves pushed to a limit where that their loyalty is questioned and will be replaced by someone else.
Johnson was apparently angrily berated by Trump in a phone call about the former’s decision to allow the Chinese company Huawei to be involved in setting up the UK’s 5G network. Relations had already been tense after the US refused to allow the extradition of an American to the UK for trial after she killed a teenager while driving on the wrong side of the road.
We know that Johnson is already a toady for Trump. Johnson’s behavior seems to suggest that he is a ‘kiss up, kick down’ kind of guy, arrogant in dealing with those over whom he has power, but obsequious with those who have power over him. So I would expect that after some initial bluster, he will once again toe the Trump line.