Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street in London, Britain February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Rishi Sunak as the new chancellor of the exchequer, the government said in a statement on Thursday.

Sunak, 39, succeeds Sajid Javid who unexpectedly quit on Thursday amid the cabinet reshuffle.

Alok Sharma has been appointed as the new business secretary, replacing Andrea Leadsom who has been sacked in the cabinet reshuffle.

Some commentators said Javid’s resignation might have been sought by Johnson’s team – due to a dispute over his advisers.

“He has turned down the job of chancellor of the exchequer,” a source close to Javid said.

The source said Johnson had told Javid he would have to sack his advisers and replace them with advisers from the prime minister’s Downing Street office. “The Chancellor said no self-respecting minister would accept those terms.”

The resignation makes Javid, the only British Asian to have held two out of Britain’s four great offices of state, the shortest-serving chancellor of the exchequer since 1970.

His departure after 204 days as finance minister comes less than a month before he was due to deliver his first budget.

“Excellent Choice”

First elected to parliament in 2015, Sunak previously served as chief secretary to the treasury, the second in command to the chancellor, overseeing public spending.

Born in 1980, Sunak attended the prestigious Winchester College before going on to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. He also has an MBA from Stanford University in the United States.

Sunak’s father was a doctor and his mother ran a chemist shop. Before entering politics he worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund, then co-founded an investment firm.

His wife is the daughter of Indian billionaire and co-founder of IT services company Infosys, Narayana Murthy.

Seen as a rising star in the Conservative Party he is regularly put forward by the government to do media interviews, and stood in for Johnson in some televised debates during last year’s election campaign.

David Jones, a former Brexit minister, described Sunak as “very bright” and an “excellent choice”.

Steady Rise

Alok Sharma (File Photo: Paul Ellis via REUTERS)

Sharma, 52, was also appointed as the minister in charge of the UK’s COP26 climate change summit in Scotland in November, due to be attended by world leaders.

He was previously secretary of state for international development.

Born in India, Sharma moved to Reading in southern England when he was five years old.

With a background in banking, he was elected Member of Parliament for Reading West in 2010 with one of the largest swings to the Conservatives in the country, according to his website.

Sharma has held various roles, becoming the prime minister’s infrastructure envoy to India in 2016 and a minister for housing the next year. He became the minister for international aid in 2019.

He was tearful in parliament in 2016, when as housing minister he described meeting the survivors of a devastating fire at an apartment block in London that killed more than 70 people. He said: “Hearing the harrowing accounts of survivors has been the most humbling and moving experience of my life.”

Sharma is married and has two daughters.

Tightening Grip

Johnson had not been expected to change the biggest-hitting posts in his government. But even the smaller changes in the lower ranks of government offered some insight into how he wanted to tighten his grip on power.

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.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan was promoted to minister for international development, while other big departments – such as foreign, home affairs, trade and health – kept their ministers.

Suella Braverman has been appointed Attorney General.

It was Javid’s move which shook up the ‘business as usual’ look that Johnson had wanted to portray.

Downing Street aides had previously played down suggestions, based on Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings’ well-publicised desire to see a radical reorganisation of government, that there would be major changes.

But it was clear that loyalty mattered to Johnson to be able to deliver his agenda and meet the promises he made in the run-up to the Dec. 12 election, in which he won a large majority.

Opposition politicians said Javid’s resignation had shown the reshuffle to be a mess.

“This is a historical record. A government in chaos within weeks of an election,” said John McDonnell, Labour’s finance spokesman.


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