Magazine article The Spectator

"I'm Still a Thatcherite"

Magazine article The Spectator

"I'm Still a Thatcherite"

Article excerpt

Sajid Javid seems the very model of a rising young Tory: student politics, then investment banking, then a junior Treasury minister in his first parliament; well-cut suit trousers, crisp white shirt, pastel-blue tie.

But what sets him apart, and so excites some of his colleagues, is his background.

His father arrived in Britain from a Pakistani village in 1961, with £5 to his name. It is from his father that Javid got his politics; specifically, from watching the Nine O'Clock News with him during the winter of discontent. 'My father was terribly fed up and he made comments that were conservative without him really knowing it: if these people want to get paid more why don't they work harder, aren't they getting paid enough already, someone needs to sort them out.' To his father's mind, the woman to do this was Margaret Thatcher: he voted Conservative for the first time in 1979. His father's vote, Javid says, got him 'interested in Margaret Thatcher a lot': 'I was a Thatcherite long before I was a Conservative.'

Javid tells me with audible pride about how his father, who died last year, 'ended up working during the day as a conductor and most of the night as a driver and his nickname became Mr Night and Day because he'd just work every hour that went his way.' He was saving money to start his own business. They moved from Bradford to Bristol.

For her part, Sajid's mother - who as a girl in rural Pakistan hadn't been taught to read - used to take Sajid and his brothers to the library for hours at a time on Saturday and tell them that they weren't leaving so they might as well read books. 'That's what got me into reading, ' Javid says, before hastily adding, 'It probably wasn't the most positive way to do it. But there you go.'

The values of hardworking immigrants seem a natural fit with what Shirley Letwin called the 'vigorous virtues' of Thatcherism. But polls suggest that British ethnic minorities regard the Tories with hostility.

So what went wrong? To explain, Javid again refers to his father, who told him that when he went out, friends would congratulate him on his son becoming an MP, but would all assume that he was Labour. 'I said to him, "Dad, why do you think that's the case?"

He said, "I'll sum it up for you in two words - Enoch Powell." ' In Javid's opinion, 'The damage that was done to the party's image in the 1970s, particularly by Enoch Powell, is something we still haven't been able to shake off.' Dealing with this will 'require the Prime Minister, someone of that standing', to make a big speech saying Enoch Powell 'doesn't represent what the Conservative party is today in any way and to set out what the Conservative party actually is when it comes to race relations, multiculturalism and so forth'. It is testament to Javid's closeness to the party leadership that it is thinking about having Cameron do precisely that.

Javid's politics are to the right of the party. At his first Conservative conference in 1989, he was chucked out of the hall for handing out a leaflet entitled 'The ERM: A Fatal Mistake'. (This prompted a concerned phone call from his father, who asked, 'What are you doing? Aren't you going to get into trouble? I thought you liked Margaret Thatcher.' Javid replied, 'Dad, I love her, that's why I'm doing it. …

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