The son of a bus driver with £1 in his pocket
A new chapter of UK politics? Yesterday, Sajid Javid was named the new home secretary. He is the first BME person to run the department, and has promised to put his “own stamp” on the job.
Robert Peel. The Duke of Wellington. Winston Churchill. Look through the list of Britain’s home secretaries, and you will see some of the most distinguished names in UK history. Most are men from wealthy backgrounds. All are white.
However, the job has been called a poisoned chalice. On Sunday, Amber Rudd became its latest victim when she resigned over her handling of the Windrush scandal, in which British citizens were threatened with deportation.
Now, Sajid Javid has been named the first-ever black or ethnic minority (BME) home secretary. On Sunday, before Rudd resigned, Javid told The Telegraph that the treatment of Windrush immigrants had deeply affected him. “I thought that could be my mum... my dad... my uncle... it could be me.”
His parents were not part of the Windrush generation, which mostly came from the Caribbean. However, they arrived from Pakistan in the same period.
In 1961, his father touched down at Heathrow with £1 in his pocket. He moved to Rochdale and got a job at a cotton mill, then as a bus driver. He then opened a clothing stall. His family grew, until seven people lived in just two rooms. Today, this would be classed as homelessness. “But I would not pretend for a moment that I was homeless,” said Javid last year. “I had a loving family, a loving home.”
His family’s determination is the “root” of his conservatism, he says. “The abiding lesson was clear to me: don’t doubt yourself and don’t ever stop trying.”
When he grew up and got a job in finance, this attitude helped him become the vice-president of a Manhattan bank at the age of 25. Having made his fortune, he retired and became a Conservative MP in 2010. He was quickly seen as a rising star and potential future leader.
When it comes to politics, he idolises former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. He voted to remain in the EU, but with a “heavy heart”; he has stood up for Brexit ever since. Yesterday, he said his “most urgent task” is to help Windrush immigrants while creating a “fair and humane” immigration policy.
Has a new era of politics begun?
Yes, say some. Javid is the first BME person to hold any of the “big four” jobs in politics. The Tories have a reputation for being posh and out of touch, and this image has been compounded by the Windrush scandal. But Javid proves they can come from all backgrounds. He will bring much-needed humanity to the job.
Wrong, say others. One man cannot undo decades of discrimination — and Javid voted in favour of the immigration policies which led to the Windrush scandal in the first place. What’s more, pushing his own rags-to-riches story ignores the hardships that many immigrants still face. Nothing will change.
- Does Sajid Javid represent a change in British politics?
- How much does a politician’s backstory matter?
- Imagine it’s your first day running the Home Office. Some of your jobs include overseeing immigration policy, the police force and MI5. Write a list of everything you would hope to do in your first week, in order of importance.
- Class debate: “This house believes that Britain is a racist country.”
Some People Say...
“No one’s going to give you anything: you’ve got to go out there and earn it.”Sajid Javid
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- The home secretary is responsible for the UK’s internal affairs. That includes its immigration policy, overseeing MI5 and the police force, and reacting to security threats or unexpected events. For example, Amber Rudd spent much of her time responding to terror attacks last year, and to the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.
- What do we not know?
- How Sajid Javid will make the role his own. Amber Rudd closely followed her predecessor, Prime Minister Theresa May. However, Javid has promised to put his “own stamp” on the job. It is likely he will start with immigration; he has said he will drop the policy of creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in favor of a “compliant environment”. It is not yet clear what this means.
- Robert Peel
- As home secretary, Peel founded the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. He was prime minister twice.
- Duke of Wellington
- As commander of the British Army, the duke defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was prime minister twice.
- Windrush scandal
- The Windrush generation refers to British citizens who legally emigrated from the Commonwealth between 1948 and 1971. New immigration rules asked them to prove they have lived in Britain continuously since 1973, a nearly impossible task. As a result, many have been denied access to services or threatened with deportation.
- Javid says his parents lost everything in the partition of India. This is when the country was divided into two in 1947, after being given independence from Britain. Thousands died in the ensuing chaos.
- A belief in traditional values, including the importance of the individual.
- Margaret Thatcher
- The first female prime minister (1979 to 1990). She was known for a strong belief in free markets.
- Big four
- Prime minister, home secretary, chancellor of the exchequer and foreign secretary.