Sajid Javid’s leadership launch was delayed by over an hour because Parliament was trying to make up its mind on whether to stop a no-deal Brexit. When he eventually arrived, there was a rather jolly atmosphere in the room, encouraged in part by the fact that his campaign team had thought it wise to offer a free bar. He was also introduced by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, whose typically rambunctious style set the tone for Javid’s own speech.
Javid is pitching himself as the ‘change candidate’, despite having served in Theresa May’s Cabinet right up to her resignation. His reason for offering change? He might be an ‘insider’ in the sense that he is associated with the current government (though many working in Downing Street at the moment would describe his association as being somewhat loose, suspecting him of briefing against May throughout her premiership), but he is very much an outsider when it comes to his life story. To that end, he opened his speech by talking about that backstory, not just about the way his father arrived in this country with only £1 in his pocket, but some of the racism and low expectations that Javid faced as he was growing up – and that he ignored in order to get to where he is today.
His regular frustration with the May administration was that it was not radical or decisive enough. But this ‘change candidate’ didn’t offer a particularly detailed radical policy platform as he spoke, which may hinder him. His clearer aim was to pitch himself against Boris Johnson, telling the audience that ‘I’m a change candidate. Boris is yesterday’s news’, and arguing that the public didn’t want to see a leader in an ‘old school tie’. This may well be true, but the problem for Javid is that the Johnson campaign has been far better organised in its outreach to Tory colleagues, which will make it an uphill struggle for this ‘change candidate’ to make the final two.