It was a normal Friday night in the Red Lion pub in Whitehall, where journalists gather to gossip about the week. Charlie Whelan, former chancellor Gordon Brown’s personal spin doctor, was holding court as usual, white wine spritzer in hand.

Only this night, in October 1997, he had a ripping tale to tell the hacks. He advised them that an interview with the Chancellor in the next day’s Times should be interpreted to mean – though Brown didn’t quite say this – that Britain would not be joining the EU single currency. Not in this Parliament and probably not ever.

“Gordon has saved the pound,” he announced. Hacks sidled away to phone their editors with a genuine bombshell.

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Peter Mandelson, the original Labour spin doctor, tipped off Tony Blair that Brown was trying to kill the euro stone dead. That led to the newly elected PM making a frantic phone call to the Red Lion to find out what his own policy was on Europe.

That story, widely told, about the toxic division between Blair and Brown that disfigured and eventually destroyed the last Labour government, tells us why, 23 years later, the first Muslim Chancellor resigned before he had even delivered a Budget speech.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s supernumerary Caliban, is determined to nip in the bud any hint of a return to discord between Number Eleven and Number Ten. His boss agrees.

He made it a precondition of his taking the role, effectively, as Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, that The Dom would have hire-and-fire authority over ministerial staff. Over the special advisers, or spads, like Whelan, who spend much of their time briefing the press, with varying degrees of accuracy, about their boss’s business.

Cummings made clear he would tolerate no briefing unless he authorised it. He was furious, therefore, when he saw stories appearing in the press about Sajid Javid considering a mansion tax and a raid on high-net-worth pensions.

Worse, the Financial Times started talking about Javid exercising restraint on the Prime Minister’s spending plans on everything from HS2 to pot holes.

In fact, The Sadj, as he’s known in Cabinet circles, was fully signed up to the spending agenda and probably thought he was just being prudent in calling for 5% cuts in departmental budgets. But Cummings insisted on a clear-out of the Chancellor’s people.

Boris Johnson, in an hour-long meeting in the Cabinet room on Thursday, actually told Javid that he was doing a splendid job. He probably half-believed it.

But like Cummings, the PM is determined to put the Treasury under central control. It has traditionally been a semi-detached power centre. No more.

Javid resigned in pique declaring that “no self-respecting minister” could put up with this remote control by Number 10.

Losing a chancellor often means losing a prime minister not long after.

Nigel Lawson resigned as Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor in 1989 over British participation in the Exchange Rate Mechanism. A year later she was gone. Philip Hammond and Theresa May fell out with similar results.

Johnson’s administration isn’t looking too stable either. There has been a series of cock-ups and confusions. Claire Perry O’Neill, sacked as head of the COP26 climate summit, said Johnson “didn’t understand climate change”.

There has been confusion over measures to clean up Facebook and Google. Ursula van der Weyer, the new EU president, has been openly contemptuous of Johnson’s call for a Canada-style free trade deal.

The Prime Minister has fallen out with Trump over Iran and Huawei to the fury of Tory backbenchers. Many of them also oppose the HS2 fast rail link.

Rarely has an administration had such a shambolic start.

The first 100 days of a new government is supposed to be a honeymoon period. In this one, the spouse has departed before it’s over.

But Javid’s resignation does not mean Boris Johnson is in serious trouble. Rather he is getting his retaliation in first.

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Newspapers have described the reshuffle as a coup by an unelected and overpowerful Cummings. There have been the inevitable references to the Godfather. Sajid Javid sleeps with the fishes.

But this is ultimately the work, not of The Dom, but of the real Don: Boris Johnson. He knows his history and wants complete control.

He has reminded the Cabinet that the Prime Minister isn’t called the First Lord of the Treasury for nothing. There is no constitutional rule that the Chancellor should have the powers of an alternative PM.

Cummings is a ruthless character and clearly has dictatorial inclinations. But he is his master’s voice. He is not the puppeteer pulling Boris Johnson’s strings as one paper depicted him last week.

Johnson may have liberal inclinations on things like same-sex marriage and multiculturalism.

He may look like a clown sometimes, or a shaggy dog. But Boris Johnson is utterly single-minded about power.

And about Brexit. We saw in his leadership of Vote Leave with its mendacious claims about saving £350 million. We saw it when Johnson expelled respected

remain-supporting MPs including former ministers like Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke. And again when he prorogued Parliament to stifle debate in his Withdrawal Bill.

Boris Johnson knew what he was doing when he put Dom Cummings in charge of the ministerial hen coop. He knows Brexit isn’t done.

He can’t afford to keep an attorney general like Geoffrey Cox, who has a mind of his own. Or a Northern Ireland Secretary like Julian Lewis, who has views.

Johnson also has to keep voters in ex-Labour constituencies happy – no matter the cost. Hence the decision to press ahead with HS2 that most of his backbenchers think is a white elephant. This means tearing up the fiscally cautious Treasury rule book.

This is not Conservatism as we’ve known it. It is a new style of government. Not even Margaret Thatcher was so forthright in centralising power. The PM is no longer first among equals, as the old saying goes, but top dog.

It is a presidential system without a separation of power.

It looks increasingly like the democratic centralism of the Bolsheviks. Dom Cummings has assuredly read and understood how Lenin seized and retained power.

This will upset many people, not least First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who has learned over both the COP26 climate summit and drugs policy that this highly centralist administration isn’t interested in the niceties of devolution.

As this column argued two years ago, over the “power grab”, the Brexit project requires a ruthless centralisation of power. The UK single market has to be uniform, a single economic and regulatory space, so that the UK can strike trade deals with non-EU countries.

There is really no place for devolution in this, and Boris Johnson has wasted no time in showing Nicola Sturgeon his cold shoulder.

Girning about the cost of COP26 in Glagow? We’ll move it to London. Drug addiction conference? We’ll have one first. No independence referendum in this life? Get over it.

Fisheries will be on the table in EU trade talks, but Scottish interests will not. Holyrood won’t be getting its powers back any time soon.