James Forsyth

Why Sajid Javid’s appointment as Home Secretary is striking

Why Sajid Javid's appointment as Home Secretary is striking
Text settings

Sajid Javid is the new Home Secretary. His appointment is striking in several ways. First, he and May have clashed repeatedly in the past—Javid was one of the ministers most frequently briefed against during the May ascendancy. He was also brutal in the first post-election political Cabinet in detailing all the problems with how May’s Downing Street had been run. So, the promotion of this independent-minded individual suggests that May is now prepared to accept some fresh thinking in the Home Office. This is desperately needed. The tens of thousands immigration policy looks at the whole issue in the wrong way. Immigration shouldn’t be a numbers game, rather it should be about what is best for the economy and society.

In Number 10, they’ll also hope that Javid’s elevation will limit the political fallout from the Windrush scandal. As Javid’s Sunday Telegraph interview showed, he can speak about the scandal in a more personal way than most ministers. The Tories will hope that the first Home Secretary from an ethnic minority will mean that this whole scandal doesn’t do them permanent damage among ethnic minority voters.

Third, Javid will now become a member of the Brexit inner Cabinet. Having been an outspoken Eurosceptic, Javid ended up backing Remain in the referendum because of his worries about the effects on business of Britain leaving. Since the referendum, Javid has been one of the Cabinet pragmatists on Brexit—consistently arguing for the negotiating imperative of being as prepared as possible to walk away. He is also a strong believer that there is little point in Britain leaving the EU if it can’t do things differently on regulation and trade.

On the big customs debate, which will dominate Wednesday’s meeting of the Brexit inner Cabinet, Javid is a strong proponent of the need for the UK to have its own independent, trade policy after Brexit. Brexiteers are hopeful that his appointment will help swing the balance of those discussions in a more sensible direction, and away from the unworkable hybrid model that Theresa May is so keen on.