What explains the recent underperformance of Sajid Javid?

11 Oct 2015


In 1992 the Conservatives fought their first election in thirteen years without Margaret Thatcher at the helm. At that time, it was a working-class kid from Brixton in charge, as the now famous poster pointed out.



In 2015, there is a new working-class kid with the credentials to be the Conservative Party leader, and no coup will be needed this time to oust the Prime Minister.


That man is Sajid Javid; the son of a Pakistani bus driver, who as a child lived on what has been dubbed the worst street in Britain. But, despite a dramatic rise to prominence during the last Parliament, the Conservative Business Secretary has lost his spark over the past few months.


What has happened to Sajid Javid? He has frequently been cited as a dark horse in the Conservative leadership race, and is perhaps even more popular within the party than Theresa May – the longest-serving Home Secretary for more than 50 years.


Maybe the Business Secretary already believes that the Tory leadership contest is essentially a two-horse race between Boris Johnson and George Osborne, as demonstrated by the media speculation that surrounded the Conservative Party conference.


Or maybe Javid’s underwhelming performance over the past few months can be associated with the unenviable task of justifying the controversial trade union bill currently making its way through Parliament; legislation that is angering millions of working-class people across the UK. Indeed, now that Javid has shown his political dexterity, the Prime Minister is using his skills to quell the antipathy surrounding more divisive issues. The Business Secretary has thus faced the fierce scrutiny of the media, perhaps for the first time in his career.


However, though these two considerations are significant, I believe that there is a hidden Machiavellian reason for Javid’s recent ineffectuality. It is clear that Javid epitomizes the Tories’ narrative of opportunity and aspiration. Seeing the potential benefits of an alliance with Javid, it is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that the Business Secretary has been offered a key job in any government led by George Osborne.


Sajid Javid has already served as Financial and Economic Secretary to the Treasury, before becoming Business Secretary, and so has clear economic credentials. It is likely that Javid would consequently replace Osborne in 11 Downing Street as Chancellor of the Exchequer.


This certainly explains why the Business Secretary has not ramped-up his rhetoric in the same manner as May, Johnson, and Osborne. Of course, I base my reasoning purely on guesswork and a mild degree of political intuition. However, when George Osborne wins the 2020 General Election as the Leader of the Conservative Party and, soon after, Chancellor Javid presents his first budget to the House of Commons, remember this forecast.


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