Interview with Sajid Javid, the bus driver’s son who may end up leading the Tories

Treasury minister Sajid Javid on how his father taught him conservatism, and why British Asians don’t vote Tory

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

Sajid Javid seems the very model of a rising young Tory: student politics, then investment banking, then a junior Treasury minister in his first parliament; well-cut suit trousers, crisp white shirt, pastel-blue tie. But what sets him apart, and so excites some of his colleagues, is his background.

His father arrived in Britain from a Pakistani village in 1961, with £5 to his name. It is from his father that Javid got his politics; specifically, from watching the Nine O’Clock News with him during the winter of discontent. ‘My father was terribly fed up and he made comments that were conservative without him really knowing it: if these people want to get paid more why don’t they work harder, aren’t they getting paid enough already, someone needs to sort them out.’ To his father’s mind, the woman to do this was Margaret Thatcher: he voted Conservative for the first time in 1979. His father’s vote, Javid says, got him ‘interested in Margaret Thatcher a lot’: ‘I was a Thatcherite long before I was a Conservative.’

Javid tells me with audible pride about how his father, who died last year, ‘ended up working during the day as a [bus] conductor and most of the night as a driver. His nickname became ‘Mr Night & Day’ because he’d just work every hour that went his way.’ He was saving money to start his own business. They moved from Rochdale to Bristol.

For her part, Sajid’s mother — who as a girl in rural Pakistan hadn’t been taught to read — used to take Sajid and his brothers to the library for hours at a time on Saturday and tell them that they weren’t leaving so they might as well read books. ‘That’s what got me into reading,’ Javid says, before hastily adding, ‘It probably wasn’t the most positive way to do it. But there you go.’


The values of hardworking immigrants seem a natural fit with what Shirley Letwin called the ‘vigorous virtues’ of Thatcherism. But polls suggest that British ethnic minorities regard the Tories with hostility. So what went wrong? To explain, Javid again refers to his father, who told him that when he went out, friends would congratulate him on his son becoming an MP, but would all assume that he was Labour. ‘I said to him, “Dad, why do you think that’s the case?” He said, “I’ll sum it up for you in two words — Enoch Powell.” ’ 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 Enoch 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’. It is testament to Javid’s closeness to the party leadership that it is thinking about having Cameron do precisely that.

Javid’s politics are to the right of the party. At his first Conservative conference in 1990, he was chucked out of the hall for handing out a leaflet entitled ‘The ERM: A Fatal Mistake’. (This prompted a concerned phone call from his father, who asked, ‘What are you doing? Aren’t you going to get into trouble? I thought you liked Margaret Thatcher.’ Javid replied, ‘Dad, I love her, that’s why I’m doing it.’) He remains sceptical that the single currency can ever succeed. Sailing as close to the diplomatic wind as a junior minister dares, he says, ‘I thought the ERM could never work and that’s because fixed exchange rates outside what one might call optimal currencies just can’t work. That tells you what I think about the euro.’ He describes the euro crisis, which he says is ‘still far from settled’, as the single biggest external threat to the UK economy.

We turn to Cameron’s plans to reshape Britain’s membership of the European Union. I ask what Britain should do if the rest of Europe replies that there is no renegotiation on offer. Without missing a beat, Javid replies, ‘I would personally consider our options outside the EU.’

What will particularly cheer the party, though, is Javid’s heavy hint that the coalition will not raise taxes again. When I put it to him that, since deficit reduction will now run into the next parliament, a re-elected Conservative government would be committed to increasing taxes, he corrects me and points out that while the plan might be for a mix of 20 per cent tax increases and 80 per cent spending cuts, ‘A lot of the tax rises have come up-front.’ When I press him on whether this means the government is finished with raising taxes, he replies, ‘I hesitate to say that we’re done because I don’t know where we are exactly in the balance at this point. But in terms of continuing to tackle that deficit, I think it’s clear, given that tax increases have come earlier than some of the spending cuts, that we’re going to have a big focus in future spending reviews on public spending cuts.’

This isn’t the end of Javid’s tax agenda. ‘I’m still a Thatcherite,’ he boasts. ‘I believe in a smaller state and I believe in not just lower taxes but flatter taxes, simpler taxes.’

Javid oozes self-confidence: you don’t go from growing up in one of Bristol’s poorest streets to being a vice-president of Chase Manhattan at the age of 25 without a lot of self-belief. He has no doubt that he can do the ministerial job. He is also not unaware of his own political advantages. ‘Because of my background and the challenges I have had and the job I have had before, I have worked with and had friends from every group of society. I don’t think that’s true of all politicians, and that hopefully helps me empathise with and connect with people facing problems at any point on the social ladder, whether they’re a bus driver or an investment banker. I understand the issues and concerns they’re facing.’ As Javid must know, few government ministers could make such a statement.

As the attendant press officers urge us to wind things up, I ask Javid where he sees his career ending up. He responds by musing about his retirement. He says that when he’s sitting on the ‘porch in a rocking chair’, he wants to know that he’s done everything he can ‘to try and help my country give those opportunities that I have had to other generations. Where that means I go between now and my late seventies, I don’t know. But that’s what I want to feel that I’ve achieved.’ In other words: he knows precisely where that means he needs to go, but is too savvy to say.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

    Good article, Javid certainly seems very right (as in the right sort!) for the party at the moment. The only piece that niggles is the Enoch Powell bit, surely his father was misled by the media and misreporting as much as everyone else was about the nature of Powell’s comments and the amazing hoohah it led to and continues to lead to (more polemic even than Baroness Thatcher’s oft misquoted out of context line ‘No such thing as Society’). IMHO the Conservatives are (should be!) the natural party of most immigrants.

    • Aarash UK

      I cannot agree more. I am myself an immigrant. Why did I choose to do it? I wanted to live in a better country and have a better life, I wanted to be British, I wanted to live in free market society where you will gain more by working harder. If my own country and culture were good, why would I leave it? And all these principles are Conservative. I did not want to come here to claim benefit and live in a council house, I did not want to live in a society where you cannot express anything as you are labeled as racist. I don’t like any of Labour policies. A true and useful immigrant should be conservative (the real one and not Cameron’s version), they should work hard and try their best to integrate to the host society. What we see now is millions of abusers who came here to keep their inferior cultures. live in council houses and claim benefits.

  • http://twitter.com/scottspeig Scott Speight

    I would be concerned if the Prime Minister did deny the the Conservative party is not in a similar vain to Enoch Powell’s – Apart from the rivers of blood speech (blown out of porportion if you ask me), what else did he actually do that true conservatives wouldn’t like? I personally see him as a great politician despite the famous speech

    • EJ – was Tory now UKIP

      I rather take exception to this article.

      Enoch Powell was a great politician and as far as the rivers of blood speech goes he was absolutely bang on the money. We’re not quite at the point of major civil strife (the riots of 2011 being the warning shot) but it’s coming down the tracks.

      What we need is for the Tory Party to stand up for the still-majority indigenous population who are being completely displaced by years of uncontrolled immigration and put their needs first. Politicians of all sides have done quite enough fannying around the ever-vocal ethnic minorities and I don’t need to listen to yet another chancer and his trumped up nonsense. The majority of Conservative voters will feel exactly the same way. Ignore them at your peril.

      • Flora Crane

        I believe Powell said that if nothing were done in the next 25 years, it would be too late.

        So regardless of whether ‘Enoch was right’, there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s just forget about the whole thing and be nice to people for a change.

      • Jack

        Sangue, rapaz? Quer ir la? Bloodshed is worse than blood for spreading. Maybe your life is old and over, but other people will have to live in the mess your bloodlust creates, wherever they’re from and whatever their colour or origin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Paul-Shakespeare/715581221 Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    He sounds like an excellent man. Two days ago, I’d have said, “Make him the prime minister,” but after yesterday, I’ll give Cameron a break. Javid can be his successor.

  • retundario

    Dealing with this will ‘require the Prime Minister, someone of that
    standing’, to make a big speech saying Enoch 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’.>>>

    How you can be a British Conservative and support the ethnic changes that are happening in our country now? Utterly ridiculous. We are not an immigrant country, (e.g. USA).

    • Liberty

      We have become one against our will. There is nothing we can do to reverse it so as Javid says we need to adapt to it. On a positive note, we will not stay a multi-ethnic country because in all societies people tend to accommodate and assimilate into the host culture if it is managed well just as Javid has become a Brit culturally and linguistically.

      • Tony Quintus

        being 85% white british makes us an immigrant country?

  • jesseventura2

    Where is he on forced marriage FGM and is he gay muslim?

  • sarahsmith232

    His view on E.Powell is very basic, but then why wouldn’t it be? It’s not in his ego’s interest to think past the Left dominated media’s shaping of E.Powell, his speech and his place in history. It will be a far more pleasing place for him to be a bog standard sheep, he’s no ability to recognise this and no interest in thinking past his shaped for him understanding of Enoch Powell. If he has no respect for Enoch Powell and what it was he was trying to achieve then he shouldn’t even be in the Conservative party, never mind leading it.

  • Scott Campbell

    This is the sort of politician I want to see. Like Michael Gove, a man who earns his place in politics.

  • Raw England

    The government and political class should be GROVELLING to the native English people, and trying to CONNECT with the native English people of all ages.

    Why are they grovelling to the immigrant population, and putting them into power?

    Oh, we know why, don’t we. Its because everyone seems to have accepted that the immigrant population is going to be the vast majority, and dominant community, in the near future. Which means we’ve accepted our own total, permanent racial/cultural eradication and oppression.

    • dado_trunking

      Darn it, he’s not even exactly a Chuka Umunna, is he?

  • rtj1211

    I”ve worked for some millionaires who came from the working class. They worked in financial services.

    I have to say that they don’t have behaviour patterns that I looked up to. They thought they owned me, rather than employed me. They saw bugging computers as par for the course. They thought being pig ignorant about everything and bleeding highly educated people dry was par for the course.

    Being from the working class means nothing if he doesn’t know how to behave.

    Being of Asian extraction means nothing if he doesn’t know how to behave.

    The only set of questions I will ask him is about how he behaved, behaves and will behave. What he considers ‘competitive behaviour’ and what he considers to be unacceptably repugnant.

    Being working class and Asian won’t save him if he doesn’t know how to behave.

    Be he Labour, Tory, UKIP, Green or Monster Raving Loony Party.

  • odrisc

    No mention of the job he’s been appointed to do then. Not actually interested in culture then. Can we hear more about what books he was reading in his local library? Loves Shakespeare does he? Goes to the theatre and opera whenever his schedule permits? Or perhaps the visual arts are more his thing – a passion for Turner? Or maybe Maggi Hambling’s more his style? It would be better to do away with the so called Culture department than insult people who care about culture and understand its importance, by appointing someone who has not the slightest interest in British culture present or past and is just using his government office as a stepping stone to a meatier role.

  • Jack

    Just another brick in the wall, whatever the background of the brick itself.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    What is it about Rochdale?
    Check the DM`s exposure of Cyril Smith.

  • Hippograd

    The new Obama. The difference is that non-whites were already going to vote for the Democrat candidate. They’re never going to vote for a Tory. But continue following cultural Marxism to oblivion.

    We are not an immigrant country, (e.g. USA).

    The US isn’t an “immigrant nation” either. It’s a white Protestant immigrant nation.