The son of Pakistani immigrants who arrived in the UK with only £1 to their name, Sajid Javid is not your average Conservative MP – but then he’s not like most politicians, either.
Sajid was not privileged and did not go to private school. Instead he grew up fighting not just the bigotry of casual racism, but also the bigotry of low expectations that holds back so many children from working class backgrounds – an experience that made him the campaigning politician he is today.
Sajid was born in Rochdale and was raised with his four brothers in a two-bedroom flat on Bristol’s notorious Stapleton Road. As a teenager, his teachers at Downend Comprehensive barred him from taking maths at O-level and his careers adviser told him he should leave school at 16 – that’s what kids like him were supposed to do.
But – not for the last time – he wasn’t about to take no for an answer. With his Dad scraping together enough money for lessons so that he could pay for the exam privately, Sajid passed – earning himself a place at Filton Technical College.
At Filton, Sajid threw himself into his studies, winning one of the best A-Level Economics scores in the country and becoming the first person in his family to win a place at university.
Politics had always been there in the background – watching his parents work night and day to grow the family business from a market stall to a small shop, he was well aware of the impact that decisions in Westminster had on real lives in towns and cities across the country.
So, in 1983, he completely understood why his parents chose to reject the increasingly hard-left Labour Party – which took the votes of immigrants for granted – and instead lend their vote to a Prime Minister who knew what it was like to live above the shop, who shared the same values of hard-work, freedom and fairness and who articulated a strong belief in equality of opportunity.
But it was at the University of Exeter that his casual interest developed into committed activism. He co-founded a free enterprise think tank, helped transform his local Conservative Association into what was later described as a “guerrilla fighting force” – and was even thrown out of Party Conference for distributing pamphlets opposing the UK’s entry to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
Career and Family
After graduating with a degree in economics and politics, Sajid struggled to land a job with British merchant banks who seemed more interested in his school tie than his skills – at one interview the panel’s first question was “What does your father do for a living?”
But again, he refused to take no for an answer – getting on a plane for the first time in his adult life, he went to work for Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
Known as “a priest in a suit” for his down-to-earth, disciplined style of working, Sajid’s exceptional negotiating skills and natural talent for economics and finance saw him make a meteoric rise through the ranks from graduate trainee, becoming one of the bank's youngest ever Vice-Presidents by the age of just 25.
In 2000, Sajid was headhunted by Deutsche Bank to join their Emerging Markets Division, helping to raise investment for developing countries. A period living and working in Singapore topped off a 19-year career in finance, during which Sajid led teams and negotiated deals with businesses and governments across three continents, often against challenging political backdrops.
Throughout his business career Sajid had his wife, Laura, by his side. Sajid and Laura met as teenagers in 1988 whilst temping in a Bristol office. They married in 1997 and now have four children, aged between 10 and 20.
In 2009, frustrated by yet another Labour government marred by political indecision and economic incompetence, Sajid gave up his business career to invest his skills and energy into public service.
Again, people tried to talk him out of it – there was no place in Conservative politics for someone who looked like him, they said. But again, he didn’t listen.
First elected as the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove in 2010, he has successfully increased his majority in every election since. As with his business career, he quickly rose to prominence in Parliament and, in 2012, he was made Economic Secretary. There he prioritised banking reform and tackling exploitative pay-day lenders, before being promoted to Financial Secretary a year later.
In 2014 Sajid was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, making him the first-ever ethnic-minority MP to lead a government department. He was also the first member of the record 2010 intake of MPs to be appointed to the Cabinet.
With an emphasis on infrastructure, Sajid worked to connect tens of thousands of small business to superfast broadband and negotiated a £5bn deal – funded entirely by the private sector - to significantly improve mobile coverage.
He also mounted a staunch defence of press freedom, made reforms to ensure his Department recognised sport as a force for social good, and delivered what the Spectator called “one of the finest speeches from a government minister ever”.
Following the 2015 General Election, Sajid took charge of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, overseeing the introduction of the National Living Wage to deliver a pay-rise for millions of hardworking people. He also paved the way for Higher Education reform with competition and social mobility at its heart, and brought forward an Enterprise Bill that cut £10bn worth of red tape, encouraged investment in skills and had the potential to generate two million jobs.
Following his appointment as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Sajid met the unprecedented housing crisis head on, publishing a radical Housing White Paper, securing more than £50bn of additional funding and delivering Britain’s biggest increase in housing supply for almost a decade. He also led the government response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, an event that “shook his comprehension” about what it means to be in a position of responsibility.
He persuaded government to adopt the Housing First approach to tackling rough sleeping, and fought to deliver power back into the hands of Britain’s communities, overseeing six mayoral elections, a new devolution deal for the West Midlands and the launch of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine strategies.
As Home Secretary, Sajid has worked hard to right the wrongs that were visited on the Windrush generation by successive governments. He’s committed to cracking down on serious violence (bringing in the Offensive Weapons Act) and introduced plans for the UK’s first independent immigration system in over 40 years.
In just one year at the Home Office he has delivered the biggest increase in police funding since the financial crisis, increased the use of intelligence-led stop and search and launched a £200 million Youth Endowment Fund to give our most vulnerable young people a shot at a better future.
He has championed the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, the Online Harms White Paper and the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, been unafraid to take action against terrorist organisations such as Hizballah when they threaten Britain’s safety and security – and never lost sight of the human impact of political decisions, acting fast to give sick children access to medicinal cannabis that could save their lives.
Since those early days in Bristol, Sajid’s life has been all about exceeding expectations, seizing opportunities, and doing what others say can’t be done.
It’s been a very different life from that lived by many politicians – but it has been the perfect preparation to lead the party and the country that he loves.