By Amit Roy
Sajid Javid paid an emotional tribute to “our parents and grandparents” at a dinner last Thursday (13) in London hosted jointly by the Conservative Friends of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to celebrate his appointment as Britain’s first Asian home secretary.
Addressing the largely British Asian audience, Javid said: “You are bigger than the cultural heritage you represent”.
He said British Asians were “not a special interest group or another demo-graphic to be courted, but an indispensable asset to British society, not as a feckless subject of the Labour party that tells us what they need to do to unlock our talents, but as a driving force in the Conservative party which reflects the best of our values- British and Asian”.
The dinner, organised by Dr Rami Ranger, co-chairman of the Conservative Friends of India, at the Sheraton Grand Park Lane in Piccadilly was meant for 350 guests but had to accommodate 369.
Javid, now 48, is tipped as a possible future leader of the Conservative party. In his remarks, he referred to a number of Asian role models, saying: “It is no surprise that British Asians are breaking new ground in every aspect of our national life.
“Take (Dame) Pratibha Gai, the inventor of the first microscope capable of perceiving chemical reactions at atomic level,” he said. “For her, rather than commercialising that invention, she offered it to the scientific community free of charge, valuing progress over profit.”
Javid also praised Nazir Afzal, “the first Muslim to be appointed as chief crown prosecutor”; Konnie Huq, “recently voted Blue Peter’s most beloved presenter”; “even Sadiq Khan”, the London mayor and also the son of a Pakistani bus driver; and “our very own Rami Ranger”.
After the formal part of the evening, Javid mingled with guests, good humouredly agreeing to selfie requests and collecting business cards as he went.
Earlier he posed for photographs with his mother, Zubaida, who came on stage at one point as a cake was cut to celebrate her daughter-in-law Laura’s birthday.
Javid also wanted to be photographed with “my brothers and my cousins”, who had turned up with their families.
He said: “I want to particularly thank my brothers who are here this evening -Khalid, Basit, and Atif… you know who they are because they have the same hair style as me.”
He spoke with genuine warmth about my mum who has always gone the extra mile to support me. Thank you, mum.”
There was sadness as he remembered “that we can’t be joined here tonight by our dad (Abdul) and Tariq (his elder brother who died on July 29, aged 52).”
His father, said Javid, had arrived from Pakistan with only £1, which was then a bank note. One of its modern-day cousins, he went on, was the £2 coin which had the words, “Standing on The Shoulders of Giants”, etched on one side.
Javid adapted the eminent scientist Sir Isaac Newton’s quote, ‘if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,’ saying: “It is on the shoulders of my mum and dad that I stand before you this evening.”
Dr Ranger’s eldest daughter, Reena, who introduced the speakers, reminded guests of Javid’s impressive CV- he gave up a lucrative career in banking when he was elected the Tory MP for Bromsgrove in Worcestershire in 2010.
Before he was appointed home secretary by prime minister Theresa May in April this year, Javid had served successively as secretary of state for culture, media and sport; business, innovation and skills; and housing, communities and local government.
Co-hosts of the evening, Conservative Friends of Pakistan and Bangladesh, were represented by Zameer Choudrey, chief executive of the Bestway group, and Bajloor Rashid, a former president of the Bangladesh Caterers’ Association UK, who said he hoped the new home secretary would ease the staffing crisis facing the curry industry.
The dangers allegedly posed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were highlighted by Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative party, and Sir Mick Davies, the Tories’ chief executive and fundraiser, who said: “We should have more functions like this to celebrate our successes.”
Dr Ranger told the audience that under Corbyn, their taxes would go up. He said: “We are not only applauding Asian success, but also the unity among British citizens of Indian, Pakistani and Bangla-deshi origin who are here to show their admiration and respect for the home secretary and his commitment to Britain.
“As we celebrate the appointment of a fellow Asian as the home secretary, we are also celebrating the diversity in Britain. It is accepted, respected and is also protected by law.”
“Our success bears testament to the British sense of tolerance and fair play and as a result, the son of immigrant parents could realise his ambitions and become the home secretary of our great country,” he added.
“This is a great alliance between Britain and the people of the Indian subcontinent. Such leadership qualities can only be found among the Conservative leaders whereas some Labour leaders are dividing us on racial lines.”
Dr Ranger added: “We are grateful to Sajid for removing the cap on overseas doctors and nurses in order to strengthen the NHS.”