Isabel Hardman

Can Sajid Javid’s leadership bid stand out from the crowd?

Can Sajid Javid's leadership bid stand out from the crowd?
Sajid Javid at his leadership launch (Credit: Getty images)
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What did Sajid Javid pitch himself as this afternoon? Well, the candidate of tax cuts, along with all the others apart from Rishi Sunak. But given everyone is engaged in an arms race on how big and how soon their tax cuts will be, there is largely Conservative consensus now that these are going to happen. So what does the former Health Secretary think will make him stand out from the (very big) crowd?

Javid had an extremely sweaty launch today as the temperature in London rose and the heat in the contest got worse. He can't really claim to be an outsider, even though he has a hobby of resigning from governments, and even though he was the first of the cabinet to quit on Boris Johnson last week. Indeed, he accepted at his launch that 'perhaps' he could have stepped down sooner, saying: 'Perhaps I should have left earlier. But I didn't see anyone else leave any earlier than me.' He doesn't have a 'slick video' ready to go - which was a dig at Rishi Sunak and perhaps also Penny Mordaunt, though her video wasn't very slick.

The central message of his campaign launch was that the Conservatives are facing an existential threat if they don't change - and that the cause of them losing the plot is sleaze and a loss of integrity. 'Over the last couple of years, our reputation on most values and policies has slid away. Too many people now believe that Labour are fit to govern. Some say Labour are more competent and even more likely to cut taxes. This isn't because they are putting their faith in Labour itself. The truth is: they've lost faith in us.'

He is one of the candidates to pledge no negative campaigning or opposition dark arts. So integrity, and experience: 'I don't think any of the other Conservative party candidates has had such broad experience in the number of departments I've ran.' The question that he still hasn't really managed to answer, though, is what has made him stand out in those departments. And on integrity, he is mired in questions about his tax status over the years, refusing to answer questions on where he held an offshore trust. Now, many Tory members might see quite a distinction between lowering your tax bill and the Boris Johnson problems of presiding over a building seething with lockdown parties or appointing someone known to behave inappropriately as deputy chief whip and then not telling the truth about that. But has Javid really stood out today, or just been part of the crowd?

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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