The shape of Sajid Javid’s leadership bid is already clear

In appointing hard Brexiteer Tom Pursglove as his parliamentary private secretary, Javid has sent a clear message to Eurosceptic MPs: I’m your candidate. 

NS

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Sajid Javid is taking a long run-up to the next Conservative leadership race. He has emerged as the frontrunner among MPs since his appointment to the Home Office in April.

Euroscepticism is no small part of his appeal and, having backed remain in 2016 for what were either pragmatic or careerist reasons, depending on who you listen to, he has wasted no time in emphasising his credentials to colleagues.

First he torpedoed the customs model favoured by Theresa May and loathed by Brexiteers. Now he has nailed his colours to their mast by appointing Tom Pursglove, the hardline Leaver MP for Corby, as his parliamentary private secretary.

PPSs are the eyes and ears of ministers within the parliamentary party and the significance of the ambitious Javid picking Pursglove is clear, and has not been lost on his colleagues, a fair number of whom consider him the clear favourite.

One Tory tells me it appears a classic attempt to bring a troublemaker inside the government tent – comparing it to a botched attempt by David Cameron to appoint Sarah Wollaston, the independent-minded Totnes MP and former GP, as PPS to Jeremy Hunt – I’m not so sure.

To say there is a tent is probably to overstate Theresa May’s authority. And given that Pursglove was a PPS anyway, he was already in it. Her cabinet ministers are essentially self-employed. Each has their own tent. In bringing Pursglove so ostentatiously into his, Javid is instead sending a clear signal to the dozens of Leavers whose support any leadership candidate hoping to actually win will need: I’m your man.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.