Javid gives Cummings a good punching but fades out to sweet dissent

John Crace

Not so much a kicking, more of a gentle warning shot. There were a couple of moments during Sajid Javid’s resignation speech when Boris Johnson started to get a little sweaty on the front bench, but only because he had expected his former chancellor to roll over and die gracefully. And silently.

Boris is not used to facing up to the consequences of his own actions. But ultimately Javid’s speech promised rather more than it delivered. He may have some self worth, but not that much.

Javid had started quite punchily with some well-aimed remarks about advisers being there to advise rather than govern. He even got in a direct reference to Dominic Cummings. No one could have taken the job of chancellor with the constraints that Classic Dom and Boris had placed on him. Well, no one except Rishi Sunak. And he didn’t really count, because he was so desperate for promotion he was happy to do whatever No 10 wanted. Javid even restated the importance of maintaining fiscal rules and reducing the national debt.

But just when it seemed as if he might be going for the throat he backed off. The final five minutes of his speech were all sweetness and light. Boris was a genius who could be trusted to unerringly come to the right decision on absolutely everything. So he didn’t want these petty little differences to get between them. This was dissent, Jim, though not as we know it.

On reflection, even, perhaps he had been making too much fuss about all this Treasury autonomy stuff. He had been a little hasty and was sure Rishi would do a marvellous turn. As would Big Boris. How did he love Boris? Let him count the ways.

“You’re the best, Boris,” he simpered. He might as well have come straight to the point and begged to be given another frontline job as soon as possible. In a straight fight between ambition and integrity, ambition wins every time.

By the time Javid had sat down to a slap on the back from Andrea Leadsom – another of those in the Tory out-crowd – Boris was well back in his comfort zone. He has traded in insincerity all his life and this was water off a duck’s back. Javid had been successfully contained and the damage was minimal.

It hadn’t all been totally ideal and he could see that Dom was rapidly becoming a liability. But it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Perhaps he’d have to cast off Dom a little sooner than anticipated. But since Dom was such a brilliant super-forecaster he’d have certainly have seen that one coming. Classic Dom. He had everyone exactly where he wanted them. Apart from himself.

Boris breezed off a few insincerities of his own. Javid was a great bloke and had lots of friends. Though he didn’t specify who they were. Not him, obvs. Yadda, yadda. No point burning bridges. The former chancellor might come in useful at some point in the future.

And with that he bumbled off into total invisibility once more. So much better to slob around No 10, eating pizza and watching TV in his tracky bottoms than do any work.

Though his brief 45 minutes exposure to daylight had not been a total disaster, neither had it been a notable success. In fact prime minister’s questions had been something of an embarrassment. His worst performance yet.

Normally Boris ignored anything Jeremy Corbyn asked him and just answered some questions he made up himself. But today the Labour leader managed to get under his skin by continually referring to him as a part-time prime minister. He didn’t mind that sort of jibe from friends and family, but he was stung to think that was how the rest of the country saw him too.

Corbyn hadn’t even needed to mention that life expectancy was decreasing under the Tories. All he had done was go on and on about Boris’s agoraphobia. What was it about going outside to meet flood victims he didn’t like? Was he worried he might catch the coronavirus that could kill half the country? The little people might be dispensable but he wasn’t?

Or had his publishers finally got round to demanding he return the £600,000 advance for his book on Shakespeare and he’d been knocking off a few chapters to keep them off his back? Or was he exhausted after a late night out with undesirables at a Tory black-tie fundraiser? Please do tell. The country was all ears.

Boris just fell apart. He panicked. First he made the schoolboy error of saying that anyone who had visited the flood areas would know how bad the damage was – which was why he hadn’t a clue. What had he been thinking of? Then he accused Labour of narcissism – his own specialist subject.

To make things even worse he ended up shrieking incomprehensibly like Bruno Ganz in Downfall. And it had continued when the SNP went after him over his former adviser Andrew Sabisky. Dom still hadn’t quite explained how that eugenicist halfwit had been allowed anywhere near government.

Time for a lie down. Still, at least there would definitely be no Facebook PMQs this week. Someone might ask him why he was looking so rough when he hadn’t actually been doing anything.