It hadn’t been one of Boris Johnson’s more restful nights. First the succession of text messages from Dominic Cummings telling him who to sack. Then the nudges in the ribs from Carrie telling him who to keep. To top it all, he was still wracking his brains trying to remember who had paid for his £15K winter break to Mustique. How could he be expected to keep track of that level of detail? He was fairly sure Prince Andrew wouldn’t be able to remember who paid for all of his holidays.
Boris had dragged his heels before heading over to the Commons in the morning. He hated any form of confrontation and had hoped to get the tricky bits of the reshuffle done by text. Hell, it was the way he had ended all his affairs. And what was good for a lover was more than enough for a mere cabinet minister. But Dom had insisted there was a protocol to be observed – “Try to enjoy their pain” – and such matters were best done face to face.
First in was Julian Smith. The Northern Ireland secretary clearly had to go. You couldn’t have a minister actually making a success of his job and getting better headlines. Geoffrey Cox was also a goner. The attorney-general may have backed him for leader and gone along with the prorogation fiasco, but he was still far too outspoken and independent. Also, people tended to like him. Boris couldn’t be having that. He couldn’t wait to see Cox’s face when he found out he was being replaced by Suella Braverman, one of the dimmest of all Tory MPs.
As for the others … Well, Andrea Leadsom was hopeless and talked too much. He hated opinionated women. Theresa Villiers was so forgettably ineffective, he couldn’t even remember who had appointed her to cabinet just six months previously. Esther McVey had just been collateral damage. “It’s nothing personal,” he had told her. Obviously she had never achieved anything other than increase homelessness, but that wasn’t the point. If success was the benchmark, then almost everyone would have to go. It was just that there had been ten housing ministers in ten years and her time was up.
The dirty business over, Boris sloped back to No 10 to get on with the fun stuff. Dominic Raab and Priti Patel were shoo-ins. Raab could carry on doing what he was told and and it didn’t matter that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was banged up. Priti was a natural. It wasn’t often you could find a home secretary who was both vicious and stupid. The ideal combo.
And though he’d teased Matt Hancock about being given the sack – who could resist that look of abject terror and insecurity? – it was useful to have a health secretary who was gullible enough to believe that 40 new hospitals were going to be built. “Thank you, thank you,” Needy Matt had said on the way out. “I love you, Daddy.”
Sajid Javid had proved rather more problematic. Boris had been certain that once he’d told him he could keep his job so long as he was prepared to ditch all his staff and advisers and do whatever Dom said, then CHINO – chancellor in name only – would roll over. After all, he’d pretty much done what he’d been told up till now by writing cheques for every scheme he’d come up with. He hadn’t even blinked at the idiotic, fantasy bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. And he had happily laughed along when Boris had described Muslim women as letterboxes. But, seemingly out of nowhere, Javid had discovered some self-respect.
This hadn’t been part of the plan. Boris had never encountered anyone with self-worth before. Least of all himself. Gaping wounds of shame masquerading as massive narcissistic egos, yes. But genuine self-worth, never. “Are you sure, Saj?” he had pleaded. “If you say no, then it’s going to make it look as if I don’t know what I’m doing.” Javid had merely shrugged and walked out.
At which point, Dom had burst in. “Every cloud and all that,” he had said. “Don’t forget, the point of the reshuffle is to settle scores, render every department effectively anodyne, settle scores, appoint figurehead cabinet ministers, settle scores and make me the most powerful person in the country.”
“Don’t you mean me?” Boris had asked.
“Er … no. Now, where was I? Ah yes. Let’s get Rishi Sunak in instead. It would be a brilliant piece of levelling up. Replacing a multi-millionaire from Deutsche Bank with a multi-millionaire from Goldman Sachs. Classic Me!”
Minutes later, Sunak found himself inside Number 10.
“Just one question,” said Dom, who by now had taken charge of the conversation. “Are you a yes man, Rishi?”
“Great. You’re chancellor.”
“Um,” whispered Sunak. “I’m just not sure if I can write a budget from scratch in under a month.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head,” snapped Dom. “I will be doing that.” This was his moment of triumph. He would be the first unelected chancellor to deliver a budget in the country’s history. One in the eye for the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Take back control. Classic Dom.
After that, things had rather quietened down. Boris had had to concede that maybe Jacob Rees-Mogg did have a point about Grenfell residents being too stupid to save themselves, so he’d kept him on as leader of the house. And Liz Truss had somehow survived the cull. Though only because he hadn’t been able to find a phone number for Lynne Truss.
Best of all, he’d even been able to find a job for Stephen Barclay in the Treasury. Who cared if Nice Guy Steve didn’t know anything about money? He’d never known anything about Brexit either. Ignorance was his greatest asset. The new mantra for the People’s Government.