Sajid Javid might be downplaying it at this conference - when asked by Andrew Neil yesterday if he would throw his hat into the leadership ring, he said ‘of course not’ - but he is seen by many as a future Tory leadership candidate. Javid’s life-story has marked him out. He is the son of a bus driver who came to this country from Pakistan, had a successful business career and rapid rise up the greasy pole - he was the first member of the 2010 intake to make Cabinet.
His speech to conference this morning wasn’t a tub-thumper. But it was striking how he positioned himself as both a Thatcherite, pointing out that he has a picture of her on the wall in his office, and as a member of what he repeatedly called this ‘one nation government.’ This determination to join two traditions together could also be seen when he said that when ‘you back business, you back Britain’ but also went out of his way to attack the bad banks and the car companies that try to cheat the system.
On Europe, he sounded distinctly Eurosceptic—declaring that he was going to ‘stand up to Brussels’. But he didn’t actually saying anything that went beyond David Cameron’s current position on the renegotiation.
Even Javid’s admirers wouldn’t say that he was a conference orator in the style of Michael Heseltine, say. His delivery, though, is improving; this year’s speech was noticeably better than last year’s. But if he is to establish himself as a conference darling, he is going to have to find a way to do rousing rhetoric which is still true to himself.