What kind of home secretary will Sajid Javid make?
Former housing secretary is unexpected choice given previous clashes with Theresa May
The appointment of Sajid Javid as home secretary has triggered a flood of speculation about how the former housing secretary will fare in what is arguably the most difficult job in Theresa May’s government.
The Prime Minister announced her choice this morning as she struggled to cope with the fallout from Amber Rudd’s decision to step down from the role over the Windrush migrant scandal. “As resignations go, this one’s a biggie,” says Politico’s Jack Blanchard.
At a stroke, the Prime Minister “lost her fourth Cabinet minister to scandal in six months, one of her few genuine allies around the Cabinet table and her own human shield from the Windrush fiasco”, Blanchard says.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Jane Merrick says Rudd’s departure, announced last night, leaves May badly exposed. “Rudd’s resignation is a blow for the Remain-supporting Conservatives who saw her as a key ally for their cause inside Cabinet, as well as a potential future leader,” according to Merrick.
“But, more importantly, it is a setback for the Prime Minister, who has now lost her firewall over the Windrush fiasco and the controversy over the ‘hostile environment’ policy towards illegal immigrants. As the architect of that policy... the Prime Minister is now at the front line of the row.”
In Remain supporter Javid, May has kept the balance of the Cabinet, “but only just”, says The Times’s Matt Chorley.
Dealing with the Windrush scandal, as well as the underlying problems around immigration, will be top of Javid’s to-do list.
“The most urgent task I have is to help those British citizens who came from the Caribbean, the so-called Windrush generation, and make sure they are all treated with the decency and the fairness they deserve,” he said following his appointment.
Javid has a lot of experience in government, having served previously as Treasury minister and as equalities minister. He is also the first Asian MP to become home secretary.
“His appointment is striking”, says The Spectator’s James Forsyth, as “he and May have clashed repeatedly in the past”.
“The promotion of this independent-minded individual suggests that May is now prepared to accept some fresh thinking in the Home Office,” Forsyth continues. “This is desperately needed.”
“Not often we get to say this, but Theresa May has made the right choice,” agrees the Financial Times’ Sebastian Payne in a tweet. “Britain's first BAME home secretary - a liberal conservative who can reset immigration policy. If the Prime Minister will allow him.”
So what do we know about Sajid Javid?
He’s a ‘uniting figure’
Talking to The Sunday Telegraph this weekend, Javid said that upon first hearing about the Windrush scandal, he thought: “That could be my mum... my dad... my uncle... it could be me.”
The interview “could emerge as well timed”, predicts The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, particularly considering Rudd’s belief, expressed before she stepped down, that the Home Office had “lost sight of the individual”.
Javid is “seen as a uniting figure”, says The Independent’s Shehab Khan, and he has issued a plea to ethnic minorities to look at the Government’s efforts to “put things right”.
But others argue that Javid’s promotion is a sign of May’s weakness. Javid’s “approach to migration is instinctively liberal - or, to put it more accurately, business-friendly”, in contrast to that of the PM, says Conservative Home’s Paul Goodman.
He’s a Remain-voting Eurosceptic
Where Rudd’s role within the Brexit war-cabinet was that of the liberal Remainer, the same cannot be said for Javid’s views.
In 2016, Javid showed loyalty to then PM David Cameron by backing Remain in the EU referendum. “But painted by many colleagues as a Eurosceptic, his decision to fall in line with Downing Street dented his reputation with many of his previous supporters,” says HuffPost’s Owen Bennett.
On the big customs debate, which will dominate this week’s Brexit conversations, Javid “is a strong proponent of the need for the UK to have its own independent, trade policy after Brexit”, says The Spectator’s Forsyth.
But his “could be the vote that tips it away from Theresa May’s position”, says Channel 4 News politics correspondent Gary Gibbon.
Javid has had his eye on the top job
Various pundits and commentators “have repeatedly singled him out as a man to watch, something clearly not lost on Javid himself”, says HuffPost’s Bennett. Speaking at a Westminster press gallery lunch in February 2015, Javid joked: “I have today agreed to let my name go forward for the leadership... oops, wrong speech.”
But his oratory skills have let him down over the years, says The Guardian’s Sparrow. In fact, “the Maybot had nothing on the Javidbot”.
“Over recent years his public performances have loosened up a bit, but the leadership talk started to fade as he proved himself to be a competent cabinet minister, but not an outstanding one.”