Sajid Javid: short-lived chancellor makes surprise comeback

Sajid Javid’s appointment as health secretary sees him return to a Cabinet he abruptly left in shock fashion 16 months ago.

Javid was just six months into his role as chancellor, and less than a month away from delivering his first budget, when he quit after being told he must sack all his advisers if he wanted to keep his job.

His departure in February last year came after a bruising Whitehall power struggle with Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

But in a reversal of fortunes, it is Javid who returns to Boris Johnson’s top team, while Cummings hurls criticism from outside government.

Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife, who previously clashed with Cummings, was once a special adviser to Javid during his tenure as communities secretary.

Javid’s previous showdown with Johnson reached a climax when he refused to dismiss his team of aides and replace them with a joint No 10/No 11 unit.

In a Commons statement, Javid said chancellors had to be able to “speak truth to power” and that “the arrangement proposed would significantly inhibit that, and it would not have been in the national interest”.

He also took a swipe at Cummings, who has been blasting the government’s pandemic performance since leaving No 10.

Tensions between No 10 and No 11 simmered after Javid’s adviser, Sonia Khan, was escorted out of Downing Street by police having been sacked by Cummings in August 2019.

Appointed in July 2019 to Johnson’s first Cabinet, Javid’s planned budget in November that year was cancelled as the prime minister sought a snap election.

Javid, the first British Asian to hold one of the great offices of state, did not last long enough in the role to be able to deliver the budget scheduled for the following March.

He was the shortest-serving chancellor since Iain Macleod, who died shortly after taking office in 1970, according to the Institute for Government.

Javid returns to the Cabinet to help lead the pandemic response at a crucial time, as efforts focus on suppressing a rise in coronavirus cases ahead of the planned easing of restrictions next month.

Before his appointment this month, Javid said he would be introducing a private member’s bill to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18, to protect vulnerable teenagers from religious and cultural pressures to marry too young.

Javid is the son of a bus driver, who arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s with just a pound in his pocket. Colleagues call him “The Saj”.

He was a tough-talking home secretary, whose hard stance on jihadi bride Shamima Begum’s pleas to be allowed back in the UK boosted his popularity among some Tories, but horrified others – particularly after Begum’s newborn son later died in a Syrian refugee camp.

Javid made it to the final four in the race to replace Theresa May as Tory leader in 2019, but dropped out and subsequently endorsed Johnson.

Born in Rochdale and raised in Bristol, Javid went to a state school and studied economics and politics at Exeter University. He left behind a career in finance and became the MP for Bromsgrove in 2010.

According to his website, Javid was a vice-president at the US bank Chase Manhattan at the age of 25 and later moved to Deutsche Bank, rising to senior managing director before he left in 2009.

He held roles in the Treasury from 2012 until he was made culture secretary in April 2014, later going on to become business secretary in May 2015 and housing secretary in July 2016.

After being made home secretary in April 2018, Javid talked openly about how he experienced racism at an early age and “could have had a life of crime” after growing up on “Britain’s most dangerous street”.

During his stunted leadership campaign, Javid played on his humble beginnings, saying his holidays were spent in Rochdale pretending he was somewhere else.

After being knocked out of the leadership race, Javid said: “Work hard, have faith in your abilities, and don’t let anyone try and cut you down to size or say you aren’t a big enough figure to aim high. You have as much right as anyone to a seat at the top table, to be ambitious for yourself, and to make your voice heard.”

Javid is married to Laura, and has four children and a dog.

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