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1 May 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:39am

Is new Home Secretary Sajid Javid paving the way to becoming the Prime Minister?

Javid has the potential to appeal to two deep yearnings within the Conservative party.

By Stephen Bush

Why, John Major, you’re looking… bald. An assured first day as Home Secretary from Sajid Javid has Westminster chattering about whether or not he can go all the way.

Javid did all the right things yesterday, performing well in the House and striking the right note on the Windrush crisis. He has the potential to appeal to two deep yearnings within the Tory selectorate: the first is to be able to recreate some of that early era John Major vibe of a leader from an ordinary background. Someone has mocked up the 1992 “What does the Conservative Party offer a working class kid from Brixton? They made him Prime Minister” poster, but with Javid instead of Major, and it is going down well on Tory Twitter.

The second deep yearning is to beat Labour to the punch and elect Britain’s first ethnic minority Prime Minister. That’s the sentiment which Kemi Badenoch was appealing to with her “Labour are the real racists” introduction to Theresa May at Tory party conference last year, and Javid pushed a similar button when he told Diane Abbott that she didn’t have a monopoly of anger on the Windrush issue in the House yesterday. That he is regarded as committed to Brexit and to some of the old time Thatcherite religion that May tried to abandon only adds to his latent appeal in Tory circles.

Can he do it? His message – yes, there’s a need for tough immigration rules, but not one that hits people like the Windrush Britons – is squarely where public opinion is. The problem is that it’s not at all clear what policy lever you pull to achieve that aim: regardless of how you market the 2016 Immigration Act, whether as a “hostile” environment or, as Javid put it yesterday, a “compliant” one, as it stands, it is going to ensnare groups that command public support and sympathy. The big question mark is whether he can do as Nick Boles urged and dismantle not only the language of Theresa May’s Home Office but its policy legacy too.

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