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Boris Johnson shuffles cabinet, British finance minister Javid resigns

British finance minister Sajid Javid resigned on Thursday, a surprise move that underlined Prime Minister Boris Johnson's desire to tighten his grip on government by jettisoning a minister who refused to toe the line.

Prime minister also moved out minister for Northern Ireland in cabinet reorganization

Sajid Javid resigned from his post as Britain's finance minister as Prime Minister Boris Johnson shuffled his cabinet. (The Associated Press)

British finance minister Sajid Javid resigned on Thursday, a surprise move that underlined Prime Minister Boris Johnson's desire to tighten his grip on government by jettisoning a minister who refused to toe the line.

Johnson, who had wanted to minimize any disruption from the cabinet reshuffle, quickly appointed Javid's deputy Rishi Sunak, a loyal supporter of the prime minister who has often been put in front of the cameras to sell government policy.

Johnson's team had carefully choreographed the reshuffle, presenting it as an opportunity to foster new talent, particularly among women, while also rewarding loyal supporters to deliver his vision for Britain beyond Brexit.

But the finance minister's resignation — which some commentators said might have been sought by Johnson's team — because of a dispute over Javid's advisers added to the picture that the prime minister will not tolerate dissent in his government.

"He has turned down the job of chancellor of the exchequer [finance minister]," a source close to Javid said.

Javid had been due to deliver the annual budget in less than a month. His resignation shakes the government as it faces the challenge of negotiating a new relationship with the 27-country European Union by Johnson's self-imposed deadline of the end of 2020.

Johnson had not been expected to change the biggest-hitting posts in his government, but most saw even the smallest changes lower down the order as a sign that he wanted to tighten his grip on power.

'A government in chaos': Labour spokesperson

His sacking of Northern Ireland minister Julian Smith, who only a month ago had helped broker the restoration of a government in the British province, prompted criticism from politicians north and south of the border with Ireland.

Smith, who had been in charge of parliamentary discipline for Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, was the first minister to lose his job in the reshuffle. He was joined by business minister Andrea Leadsom and environment minister Theresa Villiers.

Ultra-loyal Alok Sharma, a former minister for international development, was appointed as the new minister for business and also the head of the COP26 climate change summit, when world leaders will travel to Scotland in November.

But it was Javid's move that shook up the "business as usual" look that Johnson had wanted to portray.

Javid served as home secretary in the May government and was among the final four candidates in the leadership contest to succeed her, won by Johnson in June.

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Johnson's aides had previously played down suggestions, based on Johnson's senior adviser Dominic Cummings's well-publicized desire to see a radical reorganization of government, that there would be major changes.

Opposition politicians said the reshuffle was a mess.

"This is a historical record. A government in chaos within weeks of an election," said John McDonnell, finance spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party.

"It's clear Dominic Cummings has won the battle to take absolute control of the treasury and has installed his stooge as the chancellor."

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