WELL, that was one way to stop people talking about the funding of Boris Johnson’s £15,000 holiday …

No-one had been expecting such a dramatic Cabinet reshuffle yesterday – least of all, it seems, Sajid Javid, who was reportedly blindsided by Boris Johnson’s demand that he sack his entire team of advisers. The now former chancellor said no, he’d rather resign, and the Prime Minister said fine, off you go then.

So with just four weeks to go until Budget day, and less than three months after giving “an absolutely categorical assurance” he was going to keep Javid as his chancellor, Johnson has shoved him out and promoted junior minister Rishi Sunak to the second-most- important role in government. Presumably this was on the condition that Sunak simply nods his head and goes along with every instruction he is given from Number 10.

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Javid made clear yesterday that “no self-respecting minister would accept the conditions offered by the Prime Minister”, so either Sunak is seriously deficient in the self-respect department or he is convinced things will be different now he’s the one working with this particular confirmed liar. Like a deluded Love Islander shacking up with a confirmed snake, he should brace himself to be mugged off.

This is the first resignation of a chancellor in more than 30 years, and Javid has been given the heave-ho before he had the chance to deliver a single Budget. He may have counted himself lucky not to have been escorted from the premises by armed police, as was the fate of one of his senior advisers back in August.

Javid was reportedly given no warning that Sonia Khan was to be binned for alleged skulduggery (consorting with anti-Johnson Tories), let alone that she’d been marched away from her desk before she’d had the chance to switch on her out-of-office.

The sacking yesterday morning of Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Geoffrey Cox and Julian Smith was swiftly bumped from the top headlines, leaving commentators with only brief slots in which to point out Smith’s impressive set of achievements as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – including, rather significantly, brokering the power-sharing deal that ended the three-year deadlock at Stormont.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar led the tributes, calling Smith “one of Britain’s finest politicians of our time”, and Colum Eastwood, leader of Northern Ireland’s SDLP, said Smith’s sacking “shows Johnson’s dangerous indifference to us”.

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If the Prime Minister wished to send the message that loyalty is far more important to him than ability, he could hardly have found a more unambiguous way to do it. Only last week he was seen to be extending the olive branch to those who had clashed with him over Brexit, by nominating Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke for peerages, but now he appears to be settling scores by ditching high achievers from his Cabinet and replacing them with yes men and women.

Does Johnson believe these machinations make him look like a strong leader? The exact opposite is true. At best some of the moves seem motivated by pettiness or even envy (compare Smith’s tenure as Northern Ireland secretary with Johnson’s as foreign secretary), and at worse they are seen as further proof that he isn’t in charge at all. No sooner was Javid’s exit announced than the airwaves were awash with speculation that lord of chaos Dominic Cummings was pulling the strings, with the aim of removing every last restraint on the power of his boss.

Perhaps all of this is Johnson’s idea of a good cop, bad cop routine, and he is actually happy with the perception that he is a no-nonsense but amiable character whereas his adviser is the dubious plotter and schemer. But what would be the point of creating such an impression? The point of a bad cop is to swoop in and make a relaxed suspect sweat – there’s no obvious benefit to having a maverick, off-the-wall adviser to the Prime Minister, except to the maverick, off-the-wall adviser himself.

Just last week the notorious schemer declared that a fictional children’s TV character would do a better job than any of the existing members of the Cabinet, while rather ominously muttering “the night time is the right time to fight crime” as if declaring himself a nocturnal vigilante. One might equally argue there are several children’s TV characters who do a better job of being an evil henchman than Dominic Cummings.

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Goldar from the Power Rangers has a far superior costume, complete with wings, and can both teleport and can shoot fireballs from his eyes. The ruthlessly ambitious Starscream from the Transformers has an “immortal spark” that can survive even if his body is destroyed – although to be fair I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Cummings has made plans to have his brain pickled in a jar so he can continue causing mayhem for all eternity.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Cummings himself is controlling the narrative around the Johnson government – including the narrative about Cummings being the power behind the throne. When Tory MPs are grilled about the extent of his influence they might try to play down his role, but it’s hard to shake the sense he has a hold over the Prime Minister, and that some kind of deal with the devil has been done.

Now, about that £15,000 holiday ...