Thanks to Sajid Javid, Conservative unease about Boris Johnson has a face and a name

Tory MPs who worry about the direction of policy now have someone to be for – not merely an adviser to be against. 

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Sajid Javid has delivered a series of coded rebukes to Boris Johnson in a surprisingly punchy Commons statement on his resignation as Chancellor. Javid warned that the changes that Johnson has enforced on his replacement, Rishi Sunak – bringing together Downing Street and the Treasury’s special advisers under one joint team – risk a dangerous degree of groupthink around economic policy and threaten the sound management of the public finances. His speech – a well-crafted blend of personal loyalty towards the Prime Minister and uncaveated criticism of his approach to economic policymaking – creates a headache for Johnson. 

Tory unease about Johnson’s turn away from the party’s hitherto-dominant economic orthodoxy now has a face and a name. There is no such thing in the parliamentary party as a “Javidite” – Javid was promoted rapidly due to the high esteem in which he was held by George Osborne, and returned to the top of politics because Theresa May badly needed a replacement home secretary with the required credibility on Windrush issues after the loss of Amber Rudd, not because he has a great following among MPs. But there is something that you might crudely call “Javidism”: broadly a conviction that budgets should balance, taxes should be lowered, and that public spending should be watched hawkishly.

If the new economic approach fails to bear fruit, politically or economically, there is now a possible leader, both in terms of the government, but also as a face for the airwaves, a lightning rod for dissent and just, in general, an alternate pole of support within the parliamentary party.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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