UK Politics: Javid exit shows era of shocks isn't over

Former-chancellor Sajid Javid
Don't rule out a Javid return

This week Westminster returned to business as usual - by which we mean extraordinary and unexpected upheaval - says Max Liu in his UK politics update...

"Emily Thornberry is out of the Labour leadership contest after failing to get enough nominations from constituency parties to reach the next round. That leaves, Keir Starmer 1.261/4, Rebecca Long-Bailey 9.08/1 and Lisa Nandy 26.025/1... "

Just six weeks into 2020 and Sajid Javid's resignation as chancellor of the exchequer put paid to the idea that political surprises could be consigned to the 2010s.

Javid quit as chancellor during Thursday's cabinet reshuffle after being told by Boris Johnson to sack all his advisers. As discussed last week here, Javid was in a battle for influence in government with Johnson's special adviser Dominic Cummings. The latter appears to have won and, after six months in 11 Downing Street, Javid became the second shortest serving chancellor in history (Iain Macleod held the post for just under five weeks in 1970 and died in office).

Javid also departs without delivering a budget. Instead, the government's first budget will be delivered on 11 March by new chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Don't rule out Javid return

A week ago Javid was favourite to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, albeit at 12.011/1 on the Exchange. Now Michael Gove 14.013/1 has overtaken him but the fact that Javid has only drifted to 15.014/1 suggests bettors aren't convinced his resignation necessarily means the end of his ambitions.

Javid likes a comeback. In the decade since he became an MP, he served as business secretary under David Cameron then went to the backbenches under Theresa May before she made him home secretary and the first British Asian to hold one of the great offices of state. He ran for Tory leader last summer and was appointed as Johnson's chancellor immediately after the contest.

Boris Johnson in a field 1280.jpg

After resigning on Thursday, he pledged his loyalty to the government but Javid could prove to be one its more potent critics. He won't shamelessly undermine the PM, the way Johnson did to May from the backbenches, but he could still complicate matters. Don't rule out another return to high office in the future and even a bid for the top job.

Johnson's 10 year plan to meet plenty of obstacles

Like Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher before him, Johnson wants a decade in Downing Street and Javid's exit clears the way for the PM to run a closely controlled government where the executive's plans are unencumbered by the treasury.

But governments with strong majorities can sometimes bring about their own downfall. Is clearing the cabinet of dissenting voices in favour of 'yes' men and women really a sign of Johnson's strength? Manufacturing consent at the expense of constructive debate, not to mention jettisoning talented MPs, isn't necessarily a long-term recipe for stable government.

Neither Blair nor Thatcher had Brexit to contend with. The latter won a majority of over 100 seats in 1987 but was gone three years later. Cameron unexpectedly won a majority in 2015 and had to resign the following year.

Johnson is 1.4840/85 to still be Conservative leader by 2024, and it's a brave punter who bets against the Tories 1.4740/85 winning the most seats at the next general election, but the events of the past few days are another reminder to expect the unexpected.

Labour leadership race down to three

Emily Thornberry is out of the Labour leadership contest after failing to get enough nominations from constituency parties to reach the next round. That leaves, Keir Starmer 1.261/4, Rebecca Long-Bailey 9.08/1 and Lisa Nandy 26.025/1 in the running to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

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This week, the two leading candidates were discussing Brexit. Long-Bailey said that Labour would not advocate the UK rejoining the European Union - a blow to anyone planning to back the UK reversing Brexit in the next six years at 5/1 - and that her party's job was to work out how Britain can thrive outside of the EU.

Starmer, who was shadow Brexit secretary under Corbyn, said the party was right to advocate renegotiating the withdrawal deal with Brussels. He is the firm favourite to become next leader and Angela Rayner is 1.031/33 to be elected as his deputy. Voting by Labour members begins on Friday and will be open until 2 April, with the winner announced two days later.

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