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Could the next Tory leader be a Muslim?

Could the next Tory leader be a Muslim?

🕔14.Jul 2015

A high-flying career in banking and substantial independent wealth might be seen as fairly obvious attributes for the next leader of the Conservative Party to possess.

To that could be added impeccable manners, good looks, bespoke suits and a tailor to die for.

Far from obvious, but nevertheless a fascinating asset to throw into the mix, could be to have hailed from a working class background, made a stonking fortune and joined the cabinet by the age of 46.

And finally, for a party seeking to present its modernising credentials in an uncertain world, what if this prospective Tory leader turned out to be a Muslim?

This, then, is the CV of Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Skills and Innovation and MP for the rock-solid safe seat of Bromsgrove since 2010.

Who knows whether the Labour Party is concerned about Javid, but it certainly should be.

David Cameron has said he won’t fight a third General Election, opening the way for a Tory leadership election between now and 2020. Labour, it would seem, is resorting to type and is on course to elect as leader and deputy leader two chippy men who rarely miss an opportunity to fight the class war in Andy Burnham and Tom Watson.

Realistically, Sajid Javid’s chances of becoming Tory leader probably depend on George Osborne not getting the job. Mr Osborne’s star is high at the moment and he’s certainly the biggest Tory beast after Cameron, but being Chancellor of the Exchequer is a difficult job with plenty of banana skins along the way capable of wrecking even the most carefully planned leadership campaign.

Javid’s background is something that a publicist would die for. Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1969 as one of five sons to a bus driver of Pakistani descent, his family moved to Bristol from where he went on to win a place at Exeter University to study politics and economics.

He joined Chase Manhattan Bank in New York after leaving university and at 25 became the youngest vice-president in the bank’s history. Retuning to London, he joined Deutsche Bank as a director and in 2004 became a managing director and a year later global head of emerging markets.

In 2007 he moved to Singapore as head of Deutsche Bank’s credit trading, equity convertibles, commodities and private equity businesses in Asia and was appointed a board member of Deutsche Bank International Limited.

To describe this as a stellar rise is something of an understatement.

Javid left the bank, where it is estimated he was paid at least £3 million a year, in 2009 to pursue a career in politics and along with Rehman Chishti became one of the first British Pakistani-heritage Conservative MPs in 2010.

He quickly came to attention, was profiled by the Financial Times and in 2014 moved up eight places in The Times right-wing power list and was described as an ideal leadership candidate if the Tories wanted to jump a generation.

Certainly, his public profile is on the up.

He’s not been afraid to speak out over the threat of Isil, warning recently that British Muslims who refuse to condemn extremist attacks like the one in Tunisia are “taking” children “to the door” of terrorists”.

British Muslims have a responsibility to “combat the poisonous ideology” of Islamist terror groups and there are “too many non-violent extremists” in the UK who are “feeding the ideology” of factions like Isil, he added.

He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show:

When I was growing up as a young Muslim in Britain, the extremist ideology that you see today just didn’t seem to be around, it didn’t seem to be an issue.

Something has clearly changed over a number of years. I think the Prime Minister is right when he talks about if we are really going to combat extremism and terrorism then we have got to combat the ideology. It’s not about just military might.

I do think there are too many people – let’s call them non-violent extremists – that feed this ideology. They may not agree with the terrorism … but they might agree with the narrative.

We have got to realise the damage that they are doing. They are, in that case, it’s like taking a young person to the door of the terrorist. Then you make the terrorist’s job of recruitment a lot easier because then they just have to beckon them in.

I think all people, Muslims included – I guess especially Muslims – they have to talk to these people, let’s say the non-violent extremists, and say ‘what you are doing, spreading this ideology, you are hurting us, you are hurting yourselves ultimately, it must stop’.

After becoming Business Secretary he suggested foreign students should leave Britain as soon as they finish their courses. Calling for a tough new approach, he said it was time to “break the link” between studying in Britain and winning the right to live here.

He was in Birmingham recently along with Mr Osborne to launch the Government’s productivity plan outlining legislation that would allow the Government to overrule local councils and grant planning permission for housing development on brownfield land, where he warned:

If a council fails to produce a new housing plan, we will have it done for them.

He has been noticeably active since the General Election, both nationally and in the West Midlands where he has committed himself to mentoring the emerging combined authority and developing the so-called Midlands Engine. It has not gone unnoticed that the success or failure of the Midlands Engine will be compared to the Northern Powerhouse, the baby of George Osborne, Mr Javid’s greatest leadership rival.

Mr Javid issued a rather bold declaration, which some might see as a hostage to fortune:

Not enough people have heard about the Midlands Engine. I am going to change all that.

The one thing I want to work on is being known as the biggest advocate of the Midlands Engine inside government. And I want to be judged on that as well five years from now. And I hope you will hold me to account.

If Javid’s Westminster career does not progress beyond being Business Secretary his thoughts might turn to the prospective job of West Midlands metro mayor. If, as seems likely, the emerging combined authority does eventually bite the bullet and opt for a mayor, Mr Javid, the self-appointed champion of the Midlands Engine, could be well placed to get the Tory nomination.

But only if the engine has actually stuttered into life and is delivering results.

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