Source: The Guardian
If any one man can break apart the image of the Conservative cabinet as a closed shop of like-minded, white, born-to-rule old Etonians, it is Sajid Javid. He ticks more boxes than exist in the Amazon dispatch room.
He is the son of a Muslim immigrant bus driver who made his way to the top at Deutsche Bank trading operations in Asia. His father, who died last year, moved from Pakistan to Rochdale, Greater Manchester, with almost no money. Javid’s only innate advantages were aspirational parents, a talent for figures and a determination to ignore the class barriers that would have left many in his situation driving the No 38 through the streets of his native Bradford.
Much of his success is a tribute to his mother who forced her children to sit in the public library until they leaned to read, and to see the merits of self-improvement.
He is passionate in private about how hard he had to persuade his secondary school that he had the ability to go to university, and even to take a maths O-level.
He is an equally passionate advocate of multicultural Britain, and a standing admonishment for those in Ukip who regard immigrants as a threat to the British way of doing things.
Recently he told Bloomberg, when asked if the country could ever elect a Muslim prime minister, that “Britain had the first female prime minister in Europe. Britain is one of the most open, tolerant societies in the world and I don’t think whether it’s the colour of your skin, your sexuality, your race, your religion – I don’t think it’s a major barrier to achieving whatever you want. Not in the UK”.
He also has the advantage of not being a longterm member of Britain’s despised political class. He has been open enough to admit that joining Westminster was a shock to the system, initially finding it disorientating and unable to grasp how to measure success as a backbench MP. “It was so different from doing everything else.”
Nor can he be typecast as an MP on the take. Bloomberg calculated that at Deutsche Bank his earnings would have been about £3m a year. His salary as an MP for Bromsgrove since 2010 is £65,738 – a 98% pay cut, monetary proof of a commitment to politics at a time when it is assumed most MPs are in it for themselves.
He has also managed to make friends on both sides of the Tory party. He says he keeps a portrait of Lady Thatcher in his office, saying she was the inspiration for him to enter politics. Yet one of his greatest supporters on the Tory benches is Robert Halfon who ran the Exeter University Conservative Club at the time Javid was on campus.
Javid was a student Tory when it was deeply unfashionable, as Thatcher approached the end of her time in office. The Jewish Halfon and Muslim Javid made strange political soulmates. “We did a right-wing version of what people on the left did, campus demonstrations and so on,” Halfon said. “At the Tory conference in 1990, we handed out leaflets to say it was wrong to join the exchange rate mechanism,” a precursor to the euro.
Yet both at the bank and on campus, his talent was clear to see. He had a cool ability to see the big issues and the detail, a skill highly prized in politics. “I always saw it coming,” said Halfon. “He’s an outstanding individual, with an incredible work ethic, and unusually for people like that, a fundamentally decent person as well – very kind-hearted.”
That does not mean Javid is content with the state of the Conservative party, or with its appeal to ethnic minorities.
In Javid’s opinion, “the damage that was done to the party’s image in the 1970s, particularly by Enoch Powell, is something we still haven’t been able to shake off.” Dealing with this will “require the prime minister, someone of that standing”, to make a big speech saying Powell “doesn’t represent what the Conservative party is today in any way and to set out what the Conservative party actually is when it comes to race relations, multiculturalism and so forth”.
He has a big task to persuade Downing Street that in the need to close down the threat of Ukip, it does not lose the trust of the aspirational ethnic minorities that might yet be willing to vote Conservative.