Although I joined the Conservative Party during my time at Exeter University, it was my upbringing and early life that shaped my political consciousness.
Abdul-Ghani Javid (or, as he was known to me, Dad) arrived in the UK in 1961 at 23 years of age. His family lost everything during the partition of India and their move to Pakistan, so my father’s motivation was quite simple – he wanted to work in Britain and provide the means for his brothers back in Pakistan to be educated.
Disembarking at Heathrow with a £1 note in his pocket (which his father, touchingly but mistakenly, had said would see him through his first month in the UK), my father made his way up north and found a job in a Rochdale cotton mill.
Happy to be employed, he nevertheless strived for more. He set his sights on working on a bus, only to be turned away time and again.
But he didn’t give up. He persisted and was hired as a bus conductor, then a driver, earning the nickname ‘Mr Night & Day’ from his co-workers. After that came his own market stall, selling ladies clothes (many sewn by my mother at home) and, eventually, his own shop in Bristol.
My four brothers and I, all born in Rochdale, lived with my parents in the two-bedroom flat above our shop on Stapleton Road (which, although home to us, was later dubbed “Britain’s most dangerous street”).
This – along with our family breaks to visit cousins back in Rochdale and our biannual treat of hiring a VHS player for a weekend to binge on movies – might not fit everyone’s definition of success, but success is always relative. My parents achieved their aims – to help their immediate and extended families and to provide for and educate my brothers and me.
After attending state schools in Bristol, and being advised to start my working life by securing an apprenticeship, I decided to continue my academic education and won a place at Exeter University to study Economics and Politics, the first member of my family to go to university.
This is the root of my conservative beliefs. My mother and father had nothing and, like many people in their adopted country, worked their way up. All they had to rely on was their own drive and determination, a willingness to work hard, and the confidence to take risks in the hope of greater rewards.
There were, of course, ups and downs. But, whenever my parents were knocked down, in business or in anything else, they picked themselves up and started again. The abiding lesson was clear to me: don’t doubt yourself and don’t stop trying.
I saw my parents’ resolve pay off, and their sense of personal responsibility and self-development was instilled in my brothers and me. My parents and, through them, my brothers and I, flourished in the UK’s meritocracy in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.
I believe that what worked for my family and me works for everyone else in the UK. Encouraging everyone to be the best that they can be is the surest way to personal and national contentment and prosperity. That is why I am proud to be British and Conservative.
Sajid Javid is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove. This essay features in a collection by Conservative campaign group Renewal.
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