Chancellor Sajid Javid: A man destined for greatness

SAJID Javid is the first Asian chancellor, one of the great offices of state.

The son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver moves to 11 Downing Street, a short distance from the Home Office, where he was the first BAME politician to head it.

The 49-year-old father of four, who represents Bromsgrove, left a lucrative career in banking to enter politics in 2010.

After studying economics and politics at Exeter University, Javid joined Chase Manhattan bank. During an almost 20-year career in banking he also oversaw trading in debt instruments blamed for causing the global financial crisis.

Javid’s promotion signals new prime minister Boris Johnson’s intent with the economy – he wants to see a more interventionist approach – but also underlines Johnson’s desire to have someone who will help, rather than hinder, his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU by October 31.

One of the new chancellor’s biggest challenges might be in balancing his free market views with the high-spending pledges the prime minister made during his campaign – he also promised major tax cuts.

The prospect of a messy divorce after 46 years has unnerved the markets and seen the pound slump to a two-year low against both the dollar and the euro.

But Javid, who recalls with fondness his chance to shake the late Margaret Thatcher’s hand as a young boy, has first-hand experience navigating financial turmoil. Her passion for free markets and low taxes seems to have rubbed off on a relatively shy man who, in contrast to his new boss, is not known for his oratory.

Javid made big bets – and big profits – as a risky derivatives trader for Deutsche Bank during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Economists view him as a liberal who knows banking and the drawbacks of bureaucracy and red tape.

“Javid will be a great choice as chancellor,” said Iain Anderson, executive chairman of Cicero, a public affairs company that has represented many FTSE 100 firms. “He cares about business and wants to incentivise it.”

Javid has also called for a big increase in public investment infrastructure projects, a policy more associated with the opposition Labour than his Conservative Party.

Asked by a Conservative what being a party member meant to him, Javid said: “Conservatism is how I got to where I am.”

“It provides two essential things in life: a strong foundation of values and society, and a springboard of freedom and opportunities.”

Javid will have to manage the economy at a time when it could be abruptly wrenched out of the European Union, pick the next Bank of England Governor and protect London’s position as one of the world’s top two finance centres.

He will probably also to have to find a way to relax austerity with the economy facing a slowdown, and possibly a recession. Some investors are worried about Britain’s large balance of payments deficit.

During his failed bid to lead the Conservative Party Javid said he would prepare for a no-deal Brexit with an emergency budget that would include tax cuts for businesses and individuals.

He also has proposed the creation of a £100 billion National Infrastructure Fund to take advantage of ultra-low borrowing costs and invest in projects that would rebalance the economy, taking a leaf out of the book of the Labour Party.

However, as a eurosceptic who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, Javid must persuade the hardline Brexit supporters within his own party that he will now work to deliver Britain’s departure from the EU.

“He’s not got star quality. He’s the kind of bloke you’d want to hire as your accountant,” said one veteran Conservative and Brexit supporter on condition of anonymity.

“He’s nerdy, a bit like Hammond, which isn’t a compliment,” he said of Javid’s ppredecessor Philip Hammond, who Brexit supporters felt talked Britain down by failing to promote the country’s future outside the EU.

Being a “nerd”, though, might just be what Johnson needs in his chancellor, a role just one step away from the pinnacle of British power which can make or break a prime minister’s reign.

With Johnson banking on his optimism and “can do” spirit to break an impasse over Brexit, he will need someone who can ensure the economy weathers Britain’s departure from the EU.

Javid’s instincts saw him vote in 2016 to remain in the EU because of its economic benefits to trade.

But he has since rallied to the Brexit cause and Johnson’s leadership challenge after himself bowing out early in the campaign.

Javid grew up in a tough area of Bristol, where he recalled being called the racist term “Paki” in school.

He also faced initial questions about his background in his early days in finance, but persevered and became the first from an ethnic minority to get a top government job.

He won promotions to business and then housing secretary before arriving in April 2018 at the Home Office.

Javid developed a reputation as a loyal minister who was tough on crime but also sensitive to the racial injustices of Britain’s past immigration policies.

His predecessor Amber Rudd quit amid a scandal over the “Windrush” generation, Britons born in the Caribbean who migrated legally in the 1960s but were being deported because of a lack of papers.

Javid’s first pledge was to promote “decency and fairness”. He has also apologised for the way in which Windrush migrants were treated.

However, Javid also faced criticism for stripping the UK citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old mother who as a teen to join the Islamic State Group in Syria and wanted to return to London.

Javid, who said he felt like an outsider at the age of six, may have to draw on some the resilience he described during his party leadership campaign.

He said: “I’m optimistic and determined about what we can do, together, as a party to break through the barriers that people say can’t be broken, to heal the divisions that people say can’t be healed, and to make post-Brexit Britain the success that so many naysayers insist it can never be.”

His wife Laura is a church-going Christian and he is not a practising Muslim himself. Some of his four children are looking at future careers in finance.