SAJID Javid has barely been off the front pages since he cut his holiday short last week having declared the latest developments in the migrant crisis in the Channel a ‘major incident’ – despite numbers being substantially below those elsewhere in Europe. Anyone would think there was a leadership race on. At least the Home Secretary is now trying to get a grip on the situation, though if the result is that more migrants are brought to England rather than taken back to France (who do not always accept they came from there) it will only lead to more deathtrap boats and more deaths. Time will tell whether Javid’s tough stance will pay off, and whether he will keep it up and follow through, preventing illegal entry and deterring attempts.
Javid is a leading contender to replace May, assuming she actually stands aside as promised, or is pushed, ahead of the next election. The Bromsgrove MP topped two recent surveys of Conservative councillors on their preferred successor to May, beating Boris Johnson in both polls.
While acknowledging that these polls are only of Conservative councillors and not all party members (who tend to be more favourable to Johnson and also Jacob Rees-Mogg) they still show how many in the Tory Party still don’t get it.
Whether or not some are allowing their hatred of Boris to lead them to coalesce around wholly unsuitable candidates, more importantly they are failing to learn the lessons of 2016. Sajid Javid is not a viable successor to May for the simple reason that he is a May loyalist and more of the non-conservative same. Like May, he was a ‘reluctant’ Remainer who gave muted backing to Cameron’s Remain plan. Though he was once upon a time a Eurosceptic, he backed Remain in the Referendum claiming, implausibly, that he thought it not the right time to leave. Since then he has been loyal in backing May’s Withdrawal Agreement deal, and supporting her in the confidence vote. Yet, like fellow leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt, he has latterly come out for ‘no deal’ as he sets his sights on the top job. Opportunism could seem an apt description.
By instinct he is a libertarian Thatcherite, a professed fan of Ayn Rand, though in practice of the Left-leaning variety. His buzzwords are opportunity and social mobility, which sound promising but can be read in a variety of ways. His main ideological driver seems to be his own experience. The son of Pakistani immigrants and a financier before a politician, he favours liberal immigration and financial deregulation.
The trouble is that he is ‘liberal’ in wrong ways as well as right ones. His support for increasing immigration comes across as being politically deaf to the public backlash against too much immigration too quickly and its implications for the nation, set out so cogently here by Professor Robert Tombs.
If implemented, the immigration White Paper Javid published before Christmas would set the UK on course for even higher levels of immigration than now.
He was quick to cave in on medicinal cannabis in July, despite warnings that it was premature and dangerous and the worries of senior doctors about the Pandora’s Box it would open. His libertarian principles seem to depend on who he’s listening to.
His proposal in October to expand the scope of hate crime yet further abandoned all semblance of liberal principle in favour of a massive increase in state interference in, and censorship of, private life. Even police chiefs came out public in opposition to this as a step too far, and a waste of their time.
Such judgment does not augur well for the priorities of a possible PM Javid.
There are some conservative pluses. He takes a hard line on child sexual exploitation and has not been afraid to link it with the particular ethnic group almost exclusively responsible. He is also unbowed in linking Islamist violence with Islam.
Overall, though, Javid is much more a careerist Left-leaning libertarian (in that order) than any kind of proper conservative, easily led astray by fashionable opinion and what he thinks will help him advance. Worst of all, as a May loyalist Remainer he would be more of the same, and could be even worse – at least May had previously been clear on the importance of bringing immigration down, even if her successes on this have been non-existent (a scandal that does not get nearly enough attention in the media – you don’t need to leave the EU to curb non-EU immigration).
Many grassroots Conservative still consider Boris Johnson, for all his faults, to be the Tories’ least worst option in any leadership contest. Boris is scarcely more conservative than Javid, of course, and, maddeningly, no better on immigration. His pluses are that he appears to be a full-blooded Leaver who quit over Chequers, and he has better instincts on some of the most egregious Leftist ploys such as ‘hate crime’. He has also shown he can win elections, even in normally Labour areas – he has broader personal appeal than most of his colleagues (not difficult, admittedly).
True conservatives would love Jacob Rees-Mogg. But he has written himself out of the equation. Dominic Raab is also in the running. Though not perfect, his conservative record is better than many in his party; he is a proper Leaver and on the record as a meritocrat who opposes ‘positive’ discrimination and wants to curb judicial human rights activism. He has the accolade of being described in the Guardian as a ‘dangerous, anti-feminist ideologue’, which will be a plus for many – not least TCW readers.
But is Raab, any more than Rees-Mogg, the person for now? Right now (or rather when the position becomes vacant, assuming it does), it still seems that it is Boris or bust. His likely Remainer opponents, all compromise candidates in the mould of May – Javid, Hunt, Rudd, take your pick – are all equally disastrous. If the Tories actually want to win elections again they will need to come to terms with this, hold their noses if necessary, and plump for Boris.