Sajid Javid on racist abuse, how Cummings ‘burnt the house down’ and losing his brother to suicide
December 22, 2023. Series 7. Episode 79
Sajid Javid on racist beatings, how Boris and Cummings ‘burned the house down’ and losing his brother to suicide.
In this episode I am joined by the politician Sajid Javid.
The former Health and Home Secretary talks frankly about a childhood blighted by racism, his ‘survivor’s guilt’ after his older brother Tariq took his life and the extraordinary conversation with Prime Minister Boris Johnson that led him to quit as Chancellor.
A fascinating, revealing conversation with a man who has a claim to the title Secretary of State For Crisis.
*DISCLAIMER – This episode includes a discussion about racism and includes words which some may find offensive.
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Host – Andy Coulson
CWC production team: Louise Difford and Jane Sankey
With special thanks to Global
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Sajid Javid: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is saying, “Hey, you’re going to be reappointed, it’s great, you’re a great Chancellor,” and then he says, “Oh by the way, there’s one condition; you’ve got to fire all your advisors.” As you said, he is feeling uncomfortable because he has been told to do this, and he was taking his instructions from Mr Cummings. “These are like some of our best people, you just want me to fire them?” And then he said, “Saj, they’re only people.”
Andy Coulson: Welcome back to Crisis What Crisis, the podcast that aims to guide you towards a more resilient life and whatever it might throw at you. If this is your first time with us, then please hit subscribe wherever you’re watching or listening, it really does make sure that these, I hope useful, conversations are shared as widely as possible.
Joining me today is a politician who holds a claim to the title of Former Secretary of State for Crisis. Sajid Javid made history as the first person of Asian background to hold one of the great offices of state when he became Home Secretary in 2018. In that and other jobs including as Chancellor and Health Secretary he ran towards a number of truly difficult, knotty political issues including of course the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell tragedy.
But the government’s own leadership crises, and dysfunction frankly, too often brought his time in those roles to a premature end. How he reflects on those years of British political crisis is something certainly that we will discuss today.
But Sajid is also a man who has dealt with personal crisis, personal challenge. Raised in a two-bedroom flat above a shop in Bristol, as children Sajid, his four brothers and his parents who arrived from Pakistan in the early ‘60s, faced repeated racism. But Sajid’s innate resilience and academic gifts allowed him to break through and somehow find a route to Exeter University where his interest in politics really began to develop.
After a very successful eighteen-year career in banking, Sajid made the decision to become a politician. During his time as Home Secretary he also faced the trauma, the tragedy of losing his eldest brother Tariq to suicide. A tragedy that he says left him with what he describes as survivor’s guilt.
Having announced that he will step down at the next election, Sajid continues to contribute to the debate on the public crises that we face, not least on the future of the NHS.
Sajid Javid, thank you for joining me today.
Sajid Javid: Thank you.
Andy Coulson: How are you?
Sajid Javid: I’m very happy to be here, thank you.
Andy Coulson: Great to have you. We are talking as what is of course being described as yet another political crisis rumbles. The Tory Party once again displaying its ability to remove pistol and blow off its own toes.
Now that you have- you’re still an MP of course, although you have announced that you’ll be stepping down at the next election. Now that you have a bit of distance, certainly from the front bench, I mean, do you despair what you see at the moment? Or do you take a sort of slightly different view?
Sajid Javid: No I do, I mean, I find the whole situation very depressing really. Look, the party at the next election is going to be asking for a fifth consecutive term and of course that’s very difficult, I don’t think it’s ever been done in history? But you know, we’re not helping ourselves with all this infighting, and the one thing I certainly learned during my thirteen, fourteen years in Parliament is that the public won’t elect a disunited party. And no one gets everything they want, and people want to see a party that is sort of pragmatic and instead of striving for perfection in everything is just doing what works. And we seem to have just lost that.
Andy Coulson: We talk a lot on this pod about the overuse in politics of the word crisis. James Landale came on recently and he had a nice phrase; he said it’s sort of crisis inflation, you know, from media as well frankly, and of course from politicians.
Although there were undeniably occasions during your time in some of those big jobs that you held where crisis- using the word was entirely justified, what is your view of the word?
Sajid Javid: I think in politics generally it is probably overused. And if I look back, certainly in the last few years, there’s a few things that I think most people would indisputably describe as a crisis. You know, we’ve had- just in the last three or four years we’ve had two what you might call once in a century events. The pandemic, and because of the war in Ukraine the energy crisis. I think those are two sort of proper global crises.
In domestic politics I think we do tend to over use it a bit, and sometimes that can be for someone’s political advantage, they want to describe something as a crisis when it’s not.
The other thing I would say though is that what might not be a crisis for the country or even a partner country, it can be a personal crisis for someone, or it could be a crisis within their own department. One of the things by the way I think I have learned during my time in politics, sometimes when there is a crisis governments don’t want to use that word, right? They just don’t want it.
I remember when I was the Housing Secretary when Theresa May was Prime Minister, and I felt that there was a housing crisis, and I still do. You know, that houses have just become unaffordable for anyone under the age of 40. And I think there’s a housing crisis, and I think we have slowly been building up to that point under successive governments. And I wanted to, in Parliament, in my statements, talk about a housing crisis. And I remember having this debate with Theresa May and her team, and they said, “You cannot use the word crisis. You just cannot say that.” I said, “Well it is, and until we- if we don’t recognise that it is, then people won’t believe us that we’re actually really trying to address this.” And she was against it, but I went and used it anyway, and then it actually helped in that she eventually then agreed I could do a housing white paper.
Andy Coulson: Yes.
Sajid Javid: I think if I had not used the word crisis, she probably wouldn’t have agreed to that. So you know, sometimes strangely there are things, certainly in my political experience, that I think are crises but governments just don’t want to talk about it.
Similarly with the Windrush crisis, I think it was a crisis. And I remember when I became Home Secretary when Amber Rudd had suddenly left and I was asked to become Home Secretary and that was the first thing in my in-tray, the most important thing there and then. And I remember again being told, “Don’t called it the Windrush crisis.” I had to go to Parliament and make a statement on that day-
Andy Coulson: This was officials saying that to you?
Sajid Javid: Actually it was not, it was the Theresa May SpAds. “When you get into Parliament you make your statement on this, do not call it a crisis.” And I think they knew I had form, because just a year earlier I’d called the housing situation a crisis. And then probably not surprisingly to them I went to Parliament and I called it the Windrush crisis.
But I actually think it helped me deal with the situation because it was so obviously a crisis. Obviously not affecting everyone in the country, but I think whether you are affected by it or not, most people cared about the situation of others, you know, the people that were caught up in the Windrush crisis. And I think by accepting that it’s a crisis, I think people at that point truly believed that yes, the government gets it, and now they will do what they can because they know just how bad a situation this is.
Andy Coulson: Another word that we are fans of on this podcast is stoicism. Your family, although of course of Muslim faith, also seem from how you have described them, as Stoics. Your mum and dad were people who leaned into life’s challenges, difficulties. Have I got that right?
Sajid Javid: Yes. I always consider myself very fortunate in that you know, there’s a lot that I didn’t have when I was growing up, but one thing I did have, and I wasn’t short of, was a good family and the love of, you know, lucky to have two parents and nice siblings and things, and so it was a loving sort of caring household. And in terms of the challenges that we faced as a family, that inevitably made a huge difference.
Andy Coulson: But their attitude towards it. I mean, the work ethic that was instilled in you was- well it was incredible. Your dad I think was a relentless worker from the moment he arrived. Mr Night and Day, as he was known by friends. A bus conductor who punched through what was really a wall of racism to become a driver, and then the owner of a shop. Your mum working round the clock in that shop that they opened together.
So that work ethic sort of instilled, but also resilience, grit?
Sajid Javid: From my earliest memories of my parents until the moment they eventually sort of retired was they just worked every hour that there was. And so even when my dad, for example when he was working on the buses, that’s when we lived in Rochdale, at the weekends if he wasn’t on the buses he would do market stalls. First for other people, then he would have his own market stall selling ladies’ clothing, and that’s eventually how he got into opening a shop selling the same thing.
My mum used to sew clothes to be sold in the market stalls. I have many memories of going to bed as a young child, and my mum would sort of come up, put me in bed, and then she would go back down and I’d hear the humming of the Brother sewing machine while I’m going to sleep. And I’d wake up and come down and there would be this table full of trousers or blouses that she’d sewn, that there was nothing there when I went to bed. And then she would be off to either work in one of the shops or to work in someone else’s shop.
And so that’s what I remember. And throughout my life when we had shops, my parents would both work in the shops six days a week at least, in my dad’s case often seven days a week. And that’s how me and my brothers, that’s how we were brought up, that hard work is really important and that you should never shy away from it, and challenges will come along and then you have to deal with it. And I saw plenty of challenges for my parents, and I learned from that.
Andy Coulson: And the challenges that you saw were not just building a business, were not just taking care of a family. It was racism, and racism of a most kind of aggressive and difficult nature at times. I mean, there were words sprayed on the walls of the shop I think.
Sajid Javid: Sadly growing up in the ‘70s, early ‘80s, I faced plenty of racism. My earliest memories are when actually I was very young living in Rochdale, I remember quite often I would walk to school with my cousins and my brothers and there was be what I would describe as sort of National Front sort of skinheads on route, teenagers, a lot older than me at the time. And I would have to avoid them because the times that I didn’t avoid them I would get punched in the face, punched in the stomach, called Paki and all sorts of other things. And at the time I was about 6 or 7 years old, 8 years old maybe at most.
And you learn, at that age especially I think you just learn to sort of avoid the racists as it were. As I got older I got angrier about it and things, because then I could sort of- I was in a position where I would feel very sorry for my parents and what they were having to face. To take an example, and you touched on it, I can remember a number of occasions, and this was when my parents had a shop and we lived above the shop. We would wake up in the morning, go down to the shop and someone would have sprayed ‘Paki bastard’ or something along the windows of the shop.
And then my poor mother, my dad would be ranting and raving and be really upset, my mother would be the sort of practical one and actually get out detergent and other things and she would be scrubbing it. And sometimes I would want to help but I had to go to school, and I’d be really upset at school, like, why would some do that to my parents’ shop when they were working hard to earn a living, and people would do that?
I remember instances, I’d help out in my parents’ shop on a Saturday and I remember people coming in sometimes and they would say, “Can I have a discount on X?” My mother would say, “I’m sorry, we can’t offer a discount,” and they would call her all sorts of racist names and knock over a few things in the shop and walk out. And you know, the kind of thing you don’t forget. And we had to deal with that.
Now, that said, I must say that 99% of customers in the shop were great people and really sort of decent, honest customers and things. But you know, we did see probably too much racism. I think things have improved a lot in our country since then. It’s by no means sort of perfect when it comes to race relations, but it doesn’t feel like that era any more.
Andy Coulson: How did you deal with it as a family? So after a day like the one you’ve just described, going to school having just- where your mum is trying to wash that word off the front of her shop, how did you deal with that then as a family? How did your parents handle it? A very tight unit, you and your brothers in the flat that evening at dinner, what’s the conversation? How did they- because it strikes me that your parents were clearly incredible people. How did they steer you away from anger, right? Because seeing that at that kind of age could have sent you on a completely different path.
Sajid Javid: We tried not to talk about it, and it would- an incident like that would inevitably come up with one of the- either me or one of my brothers would bring it up. But I could see my parents would not really want to talk about it, and to the extent they did they would just sort of almost, not brush it off, but sort of say, “Look, that’s life, we just need to carry on, right? We shouldn’t change everything, we shouldn’t change anything and we should, you know, as a family we carry on, we have to ignore it.” And to some extent I guess as a child I began to accept that.
But I’ll tell you another incident that always stuck in my mind. A very racist incident, where I was 11, I’d started my new secondary school, and in the first week one of the guys in school, a sort of self-declared National Front supporter, skinhead, I was just in the school playground, he came up behind me, punched me in the back of my head, kicked me in the back and knocked me down on the floor. He started kicking me on the floor.
My school was all white, the only non-white children in the school other than me were my two brothers. And the other school children just sort of crowded round and said, “Fight, fight, fight,” and I’m just getting kicked and he’s just shouting, “Paki,” repeatedly and kicking me. Luckily someone told my eldest brother, Tariq, and he came and pulled him off and then took me to see the Headmaster. Eventually the boy who did this got expelled from the school. But you don’t forget something like that.
I remember going home that evening and then I didn’t really want to tell my dad but Tariq did. And my dad, the first he said was, “That’s awful, are you alright?” I said yes, he goes, “Did you fight back? Did you hit him?” And I said no, and he said, “Well, next time hit him. If he does that, you’ve got to defend yourself. Next time, do it.”
Fortunately there weren’t too many next times of that nature, but there was one more where a year later someone challenged me to a fight at school, saying they wanted to fight because I’m not white and people like me shouldn’t be in the school. And I said, “Okay fine, let’s have a fight.” And we almost- we started a fight and I punched him a couple of times and he backed off and walked away. I did learn a lesson from that. I’m not saying it was the best lesson but you know, sometimes you have to fight back and stand up for yourself.
Andy Coulson: You describe it there, Tariq diving in to help you. As brothers you must have been incredibly tight.
Sajid Javid: Yes we were. Tariq was my eldest brother and as I say, I’ve got four brothers in total, I’m in the middle, and we all grew up very, very close. You know, sharing all sorts of successes and failures and talking about everything, we were very close. And the five of us, we were probably- five of us born in seven years, so we weren’t that many years apart as a group of five.
Andy Coulson: Yes. Your talents, Sajid, weren’t spotted until quite late in your school years. And in fact I think there was a bit of resistance, right? You weren’t allowed to take your maths O-level so you found a way of doing it yourself.
Sajid Javid: That’s right.
Andy Coulson: You had to change school because they wouldn’t let you take the three A-levels that you needed to get to university.
Sajid Javid: That’s right.
Andy Coulson: You went to a different college. And once there I think your talents were finally spotted. So you know, this is- having painted the picture that you’ve painted, you have then also got this sort of slightly softer but I guess probably less aggressive resistance to progress for you. And yet in you somewhere is this kind of, “No, no, no, I’m doing what I need to do.”
Do you remember when that sort of switch came on for you?
Sajid Javid: I think when I was very young I could see my parents struggling and dealing with all these challenges we’ve spoken of. And I was determined that things would be different for me, and also different for my parents, that I would do something about it when I grew up. You know, apart from one short occasion my parents never owned a home, they always lived in the rented flat above the shop. For example I used to think, “When I’m older I want to earn enough money so that I can buy my parents their first home.”
I would think about things like that, and that would really motivate me. And then I just thought that you know, whatever challenges come my way I’m going to have to just crash through them and deal with them, and there has got to be a way. Because other people are successful so why can’t I be? I used to think like that from an early age, and so- you know, the O-level story is quite right. I wanted to take O-level maths, I went to my local comprehensive, it wasn’t a very good school and they didn’t really encourage children even to do A-levels there, let alone O-levels, and the general expectation was that you would sort of leave school at 16 and go and find a job.
I remember my careers teacher when I was 15, when there was an assessment of the things you like, don’t like, and she said, “Sajid, you can have a brilliant career being a television repair man with Radio Rentals.” And I thought I wanted a bit more than that, well, a lot more than that, and you’re right, they didn’t want me to do the O-level. So I went to tell my dad and he said, “Look, how much does it cost to do your own- to sit the O-level?” and I said, “Well Dad, the problem is the paper costs £27.” I remember the cost. And my dad said, “Well, we can afford that.” And I said, “No, but I need to be taught some lessons, things that-”
Andy Coulson: You need a tutor.
Sajid Javid: Yes, I need a tutor. And then my dad said, “Look, I can give you £50 and that’s it.” I remember going through what was the Bristol Evening Post, finding a tutor who was a university student at Bristol, and he agreed to teach me for £10 a lesson and ended up giving me a lot more lessons than I could afford, for free.
The same with A-levels. The school would only let me study two A-levels, I need three so I switched schools and went to a local college, and I was the first of my family to go to university as well. And that felt alien, looking for uni- because I didn’t know- at the time- it’s hard to believe but at the time I started thinking about this thing called university I didn’t know anyone in my or my family’s social circle that had ever been to university. So I couldn’t talk-
Andy Coulson: You had no frame of reference.
Sajid Javid: I could not talk to anyone. So what I ended up doing was- this was the days before internet and things, to do the research I went to Bristol City Central Library to get the prospectuses on various universities. I had no idea, I’d heard of Oxbridge but that was about it. And the librarian that I would go and ask for these prospectuses from took pity on me and realised I was interested in university, and she it turned out had gone to Bath University or something, and so she became my sort of help on choosing universities, just by chance.
And in the end I ended up going to Exeter University, which was great, changed my life. But I remember arriving at Exeter and then noting that something like 90%, maybe more at that time, of the students around me had all gone to private schools. And I felt a bit out of place but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Andy Coulson: Tell me about that. Tell me about walking into that environment for the first time. I mean, how would you- how much doubt were you carrying? Because from that story it sounds like this is- you are clear sighted, you are driven, you are determined, maybe there’s a bit of kind of, “I’ll prove you wrong” as well in there, I’m sure.
Sajid Javid: There was a lot of that, and on that Andy, the way it was was that by then I’d realised- I had already had a number of instances in my life where people, often well meaning people, would say, when I set myself an ambition or a target, would say, “Well, you’re not really going to be able to do that are you, because how many people do you know or do we know that have achieved that?” And that’s everything from doing three A-levels, going to university, and then later in my life wanting to work in the City, wanting to become a Conservative MP, thinking that one day I might be a minister, one day I might be in the Cabinet.
You know, all along my life there has been people, as I say, well meaning, that have said, “You’re not really going to be able to do that are you, because, again, how many people do you know or do we know that’s ever achieved anything like that?” And when it was in government obviously it was in history, you know, people hadn’t achieved some of things that sort of, from my background.
Andy Coulson: Where did that come from then, I suppose is the question I’m asking? Because I can see where the resilience came from, I can absolutely see where the work ethic has come from, but where did the belief come from?
Sajid Javid: I have a deep, like a hunger. I wanted to show my parents that it would be- that the fact that they left their country, came thousands of miles and settled in a new country that wasn’t their own at the time, and all the aggression that they took and things in first settling here, that it would- that I as their son, that I would show them that it’s been worth their while, right? And that I could not only succeed in terms of a good job and earn some good money and things, and like them, but also in the society that had become our new home.
And to me, one of those ways was of course being involved in politics, getting to Parliament, and showing them that I- look what we can achieve as a family in our new home, and how we can help others as well.
And so you know, I had that hunger all from maybe my mid-teens onwards and throughout university. So that when I was at university and I started applying for jobs for when I eventually graduated, I sort of fixated on the City. I didn’t much about it at all, all I knew was that it’s exciting and if you do well you can make good money for yourself, and I thought, “Well, why don’t I try that?” And again, a lot of people said to me, “Look, you’ve not really- you don’t wear the old school tie,” and all these sort of- at the time you had the British merchant banks, “They’re not really going to take someone like-”
Andy Coulson: Did you apply- you applied to a couple of British banks before you then-?
Sajid Javid: I did. I applied to British merchant banks, and I remember it was the sort of old Rothschild so to speak then, and Kleinwort Benson was another one. I got interviews, they both rejected me. I remember the Rothschild interview for example, it was held in Bristol actually and I went to- it was a hotel, and I walk in this room and there are six men in pinstripes sitting there at a table. I’m standing up, they’re all sitting down. And the first question, well, second or third question they asked me was, “What does your father do?” And I said you know, “He runs a shop and he was a bus driver, owns a shop,” and their faces would tell a thousand stories. I thought there was no way they were going to offer me a job, and I was right.
Kleinwort Benson was much the same, I didn’t get offered a job. But I did also apply to two American banks that had just started expanding in the UK, Chase Manhattan and Merrill Lynch, and both of them offered me a job.
And Andy, there’s an important thing I learned here. The reason those American banks were expanding and growing and offering that competition to the tired old sort of British banks in the City was because of Margaret Thatcher. Because she had made a bit set of changes in the City then that were known as the Big Bang, big deregulation which encouraged competition. And that meant for these businesses that you know, it was costly to be racist, costly to just focus on your own, right? What really made money was getting the best talent in, regardless of their colour or their background.
The American banks were much more meritocratic, they were much more competitive, they were much more hungry. And that would not have happened, and I would not have got that break in the City if Margaret Thatcher had not made those changes.
And what it made me realise was how politicians can make a huge difference to your life and your life chances.
Andy Coulson: Before then though, you were a very successful banker. What was your key skill? What was it that you were really good at, as a banker?
Sajid Javid: I was very creative. And what I mean by that is in banking as well as all the sort of traditional products, regular lending and savings products and things, banking then globally was becoming more competitive. Borders were breaking down between countries in terms of transferring capital and products, and customers were becoming more sophisticated.
So one thing I turned out to be good at, I think, was creating products, creating solutions, so what you might call financial solutions. A bit like an engineer but in banking, like a financial engineer.
Andy Coulson: Right.
Sajid Javid: So you know, a company or a client would have a problem, some financial issue, maybe with managing risk, it could be interest rate risk, it could be foreign exchange risk, or just something to do with lending. And I would be someone that could sort of go in, look at the big picture, then narrow down on the issues and come up with a solution.
Andy Coulson: Was there a bit of the kind of proving people wrong as well that was sort of powering you at that point, in that in environment?
Sajid Javid: Yes, yes.
Andy Coulson: Were you still out- you were still on the mission, so to speak?
Sajid Javid: I was, I was. It reminds me of when- I remember when I first started with Chase Manhattan Bank, so the big American bank that gave me the job offer. And in my first week as a sort of 21-year-old fresh out of university I remember bumping into the person that had interviewed me in my final interview and obviously must have said something positive because there I am working for the bank.
I saw him and I said- I remember his name, it was Tim. I said, “Tim, it’s me Sajid.” And he took a moment to remember, and he goes, “Yes, I met you at Exeter, right?” And I said, “Yes. I just want to know,” I said, “You know, you hired twelve people that year in Europe.” Throughout Europe. I think four of them from the UK. “And you had, you know, the pick of the cream of the crop.” I was the only one that they hired that didn’t go to Oxbridge, right? I said, “Why did you hire me?” And he looks at me and he said, “Oh it’s simple. You’ve got hunger in your belly and you don’t wear green wellies.” And then walked off.
And I thought, “Well, fair enough.”
Andy Coulson: What about your relationship with risk, then?
Sajid Javid: Obviously no risk manager gets everything right, but you want to clearly be more right than wrong. And I felt that it was- things were going very well and I felt very comfortable with it until while I was there in Asia the global financial crisis comes along.
And that was a big test for me. It was a proper crisis, and I learned a lot from it. But I look back now, and especially considering what happened to other bankers with risk books, even other banks, and I think in the end it turned out okay but I wasn’t to know that at the time.
Andy Coulson: Aside from the sort of technical elements of that, what about the personal elements? So, what did you emerge with from that experience in terms of, you know, the sort of Savid Javid approach to crisis management? What were the sort of principles that you kind of brought with you out of an experience like that?
Sajid Javid: A couple of things, I’d say. First, it sounds obvious but I think not enough people do it, is just stay calm in a crisis. When other people around you, and they were in my own team, they were getting very nervous, they were being erratic, not getting enough sleep and things, just stay calm and considered. And when you make decisions, again it sounds obvious, before you execute it just think twice about it. Think carefully, get a second opinion and don’t just rush into judgement.
Get as much information as you can. You know, data is everything. As much possible information as you can, and think about sources of information that you might not have used before and things, and so you really are as best informed as possible.
And try to think also a step or even a couple of steps ahead. Obviously it’s very hard, but try to think, “Okay, if I make this decision now based on this information, how might others react?” What’s the behavioural response of others to what you might do? You’re not operating in a vacuum of decision making.
And the other thing I would say is- I want to say never, I don’t know if can say never on this, but I was tempted to say I never took the crisis home with me. So when I was in Singapore for example during the financial crisis I was with my whole family, we were all living there. And I might get home late at night or whatever but I wouldn’t be discussing this at the kitchen table or with my wife at night and things, I just wouldn’t get into it.
Andy Coulson: You’d literally say to yourself before you stepped through the door-
Sajid Javid: Yes absolutely, always. And I did that throughout politics. I could be dealing with whatever. It could be politics, it could be pandemic, it could be Salisbury poisoning, it could be Windrush, whatever, I would not go home and start talking about it.
Andy Coulson: Do you have a sort of internal device that allows you to do that? Because some people talk about literally stopping at the threshold of the door before they go in, and getting themselves into-
Sajid Javid: [I pretty much did that. I mean obviously I couldn’t completely because you know, if I get a phone call or some message I have to- of course I’m going to deal with it. But I would try to do that. And even, again, I’m jumping ahead a bit. But in all the time I was a minister, which was most of my time in Parliament, obviously ministers have their red boxes where you get tons of briefs and paperwork and submissions, and normally a minister would take those home. And then they’d get home, maybe have a bit to eat and then open up their red box at night or whatever. I would rarely do that. Apart from at the weekend I wouldn’t do that, because what I would much rather do is I would stay late in the office, finish my red box and then go home. Because I didn’t want to-
Andy Coulson: Keep the separation.
Sajid Javid: I felt that the moment I open that box at home all the challenges of the day are just going to come flooding back, it’s going to fill my head and it’s going to be hard to switch off.
Andy Coulson: From the outside looking in, you know, there’s an easy narrative here, right? You are driven, you are out to prove yourself and prove others wrong, you are doing brilliantly in terms of your kind of acceleration through the world of banking, and that you want to succeed sufficiently from an economic point of view to then be able to do what was really always on your mind which is politics, and then who knows, maybe Prime Minister. That’s the sort of easy narrative that sits behind your story when you look at it from a distance.
Did you have a plan?
Sajid Javid: I did think that. I did think- I didn’t have the confidence that I would necessarily make it as in get elected to be an MP, because I knew how competitive a process it was and all of that. But I did think that. And by that, what I mean is that I did think from my university days on, you know, if I am successful in business and I make some money, and you know, enough to look after my family, at some point maybe I will try and become an MP. But I could easily have also just carried on with the banking.
But I think by the time I was sort of getting to my- after twenty years or so in banking and getting to my- about to hit 40, I think, I thought that banking just wasn’t doing it for me and I became less interested in the money. A lot less interested. And politics and Parliament became more on my mind.
And then what changed was- but I still wasn’t ready to do anything about it because I also thought I was leaving it very late because you know, it was 2009 by the time I was really thinking this. The next election was going to be 2010.
But what happened was in, I think it was about April that year, I was in Singapore and I got a call from a friend of mine. I’ll name him because he won’t mind, Tim Montgomery called me up, old university mate, very involved in Conservative politics. He said, “Saj, are you still interested in becoming an MP at some point?” And I said, “Yes I do, but haven’t I left it too late?” He goes, “No, there’s this expenses scandal and it’s going to be big, and there’s going to be so many resignations right across the political spectrum including in some good parliamentary seats. So if I were you I’d get your name on the candidates list and keep your options open.”
And that’s what I did, because of Tim’s call. That’s exactly what I did. And then he was absolutely right, and then four or five months later I decide I’m really going to go for this properly, I take a big risk which is quit my job.
Andy Coulson: Laura, your wife, she was?
Sajid Javid: My wife has been the support in everything that I’ve done since I met her, which was when I was 18. And she was 100% behind me. Not because she wanted it; I think if I’d actually asked her for an honest opinion should would much rather I didn’t go into politics at all. But she knew that it meant so much to me, that I was absolutely driven by this at the time.
Andy Coulson: And you parents?
Sajid Javid: My parents were very, very supportive. My dad, I think he fully understood what it meant to be in Parliament and stuff, he had followed British politics for- he was very interested in current affairs and things. I think for my mum, being someone from a Pakistani village that never had any formal education but still one of the smartest people I know, to her- I remember saying I wanted to get in politics, and her idea of politics was politicians in Pakistan. She said, “Why would you want to do that?” because it’s not considered a particularly good career in Pakistan. And so she said, “Why would you want to do that? Aren’t you better off staying in banking?” But eventually she understood the importance of it.
So what happened then was in 2009 I quit my job, which was a big decision, and then I spent months looking for a parliamentary seat which obviously, you know, for anyone that has done it, you never know whether it’s going to be successful or not.
Andy Coulson: Yes. But you do get it, you become an MP, and your rise is pretty meteoric. I think though you lost your dad Abdul in 2012, that was before you got your first Cabinet job, am I right?
Sajid Javid: That is right, it was before I had my first job in Cabinet.
Andy Coulson: But he saw you on the path.
Sajid Javid: He saw me get elected, and he came to Parliament after I was elected and I was very proud to show my parents around in Parliament and say, “Look, this is where I work.”
Andy Coulson: An amazing moment.
Sajid Javid: And my dad especially, because of his interest in politics and current affairs, and by then he was very proud to be British, he was very proud. It was nice to have that moment.
Andy Coulson: Tell me about the early days then, in the party. You worked for George, didn’t you?
So I arrive, and I’ve got to say in the first few months I started thinking maybe I’d made a mistake. Because I thought, “I just cannot see how you get on in this place.” No one knows you, you don’t know who you can trust, your own party Whips are only interested in you following instructions-
Andy Coulson: Being useful.
Sajid Javid: And then I thought, “I can’t possibly see how you can get in to be a minister or anything.” There’s no mechanism, there’s no HR department or anything. So I remember after a few months going home night after night and saying to my wife, “I think I might have made a mistake, I’m not sure if this is going to work out.”
And then I thought, “Look. I’m in this obviously at least for those five years I’ve been elected for,” I wasn’t going to leave early or anything. So I thought, “You know what? Let’s make the most of it. And let’s start talking about-” and it sounds novel, I think more politicians should do it. Which was, I thought, “Let’s start talking about publicly what you know about. And don’t talk about what you don’t know about.”
And that was not, as I said, not what most MPs do in my opinion. Because you constantly get asked by Whips, “Can you go and speak on this debate, that debate?” And I would say, “Look, I don’t know anything about that issue. I’m not going to go and talk about that.” And they’d say, “Don’t worry, we’ll tell you what to say.” I wasn’t interested in that.
So I started talking about the global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis and things like that, that I knew a lot about. And then there was one thing that then happened that changed my life, and I wasn’t to know it. Which was, George Osborne did a budget in his first year, he did his budget, and most MPs in the forthcoming budget debate of four or five days would speak- not want to speak until at least a day after the budget so they could read all the newspapers and things and see what they said about it, and then set out their own thoughts based on that.
And so on the day he delivered his budget, the only people that stood up in the chamber to speak were- I remember. It was Alistair Darling, it’s very sad that he is no longer with us, I think he was a great man, I got to know him many years later. As a former Chancellor he stood up. And then I think it was Andrew Tyrie who was Chair of the Select Committee, the Treasury Select Committee. And then that was it.
And they were about to close the debate and George thought he could leave early, because the tradition is that the Chancellor stays there whilst the debate is- early part of the debate.
And I suddenly stand up, and everyone is like, “Who the hell is this guy?” And I go and give my verdict on the budget. And I wasn’t to know it, but then George went back to his office, he told me later, he went back to his office and said, “Who was that guy, on our side, that stood up and actually seemed like he knew what he was talking about? I need to see him.”
Andy Coulson: Who was that guy who knew what he was talking about?
Sajid Javid: Yes, on our own side, right? And then eventually you know, he takes an interest, and a few months later I find out I’m going to- I’ve suddenly been asked to be his PPS, your Parliamentary Private Secretary. So you know, that was a sort of important moment I guess in my Parliamentary career and I wasn’t to know it at the time.
Andy Coulson: A number of Cabinet roles come. We’re racing through, so apologies for that. Culture Secretary first, then Business Secretary. There is also a moment when the stars align in such a way that you decide to stand on a joint ticket with Stephen Crabb for the leadership, that didn’t work out for a bunch of reasons.
In July 2016 you become Secretary of State for Communities. And during that period of course you led the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Would you say that was the most difficult crisis from an emotional point of view, from the human perspective, that you had to deal with?
Sajid Javid: Yes I would. I mean, you’ve said it. I would have added it if you hadn’t said it, from an emotional and personal view yes, it was the most difficult. And as you’ve said, I dealt with a lot of crises in government but that was certainly emotionally the most difficult. And it was, because so many people had just lost their lives in the most terrible circumstances, it was my job rightly as the Housing Secretary to respond to that.
And when I went to Grenfell Tower soon after the fire, when it was safe to go and do so, and then I met many of the survivors, I was just heartbroken at what had happened to these families and how- the loved ones they had lost. And then a few weeks later I held a public meeting and invited all the families and relatives. I remember my office saying, “We’ve scheduled two hours and you’ve got a really important meeting afterwards and you must leave.” I ended up something like I think four hours there, four or five. I was just so, “I’m going to stay here as long as people want me to, I’m going to listen to every single person, every story.” And it was just one heartbreaking story after the other, and I just resolved to myself, “I’ve got to do everything I possibly can to help these families and people, across government.” So whatever issues they’ve got with any other government department and things-
Andy Coulson: Because there were some differences of opinion, if I can put it that way, on how the government reaction should be organised. There was also a fair bit of criticism about a lack of empathy, a lack of kind of human understanding, particularly directed at Theresa May frankly, I think very unfairly.
What was your view of how the government was being viewed at that stage, if you like?
Sajid Javid: I think that- I certainly found that Theresa May was very supportive. And I couldn’t say that about all of the members of the government at the time in terms of understanding just how important this was in getting our response- you know, making sure it was as strong as possible. But in all my dealings at the time with Theresa May then Prime Minister, whenever I went to her and I said, “Look, I need this. I need more bodies to help with this aspect of it. I need more support on housing, I need more money for this,” she was very, very supportive.
I think she found it difficult to show that sometimes, emotionally to show that. I remember having a conversation with her where she said she was going to go and visit some of the survivors and their families, and I remember actually saying to her, saying, “Look, make sure you do, that you show your true emotions and stuff.” And she said, “Why are you saying that? What do you say that?” And I said, “Because-” and then I could see that I’m getting into a difficult conversation with her, I said, “Because I’m not sure you always do.” And she goes, “Well, I do.” And I thought it was probably not worth having this conversation any more, but I don’t think she really under- maybe she did, but.
But what I absolutely will say during that time, that in terms of the government response she was very supportive of me in what I needed to do.
Andy Coulson: 2018 you become Home Secretary, that true moment of history. First person of Asian background to hold one of the great offices of state. Did you sort of appreciate what you’d achieved at the time?
Sajid Javid: No, I don’t think so. It happened all of a sudden, obviously there was no reshuffling of things, sadly Amber Rudd had gone. In fact what had happened was I think just that same weekend- I think she had resigned on the Sunday, I was appointed on the Monday morning.
On the Sunday in one of the Sundays, I think it was the Sunday Times, I don’t remember, I had given an interview, I was interviewed about housing and communities. But I was asked about the Windrush crisis, the situation which was just sort of starting at that point, I guess. And I answered it honestly, and I just said, “Look, I think this is terrible, what’s happening.” And the government at that point was trying to sort of almost pretend that it’s not a crisis and actually it’s just a few odd cases here and there and we can handle it. That was the message going out from government. And I just thought you know, this sounds to me so serious.
And I said something like, “This could be my parents. This could be my parents who had come from Pakistan, and if they weren’t- if they didn’t happen to have got their UK passports and stuff they would be undocumented and they could be trying to throw my parents out the country. They’ve got every right to be here, right?”
And then I get a message on that Sunday from someone in Theresa May’s office in Number 10 saying, “The Prime Minister is really upset that you said that. You’re rocking the boat, she doesn’t like it and she’s really upset with you.”
Andy Coulson: This is from one of her SpAds?
Sajid Javid: Yes, “So can you keep your mouth shut about this? Don’t get involved. And then I thought, “Oh shit, she’s a bit unhappy with me.” So you know, I didn’t think much of it for the rest of the day. Twenty-four hours later I’m Home Secretary. So I thought, “Wow, okay. She must have been really upset, right?”
And actually I- I actually think, looking back, probably had I not said that I’d have had less chance of being Home Secretary, right? Because by then she’s realised-
Andy Coulson: You’ve opened their minds to-
Sajid Javid: Yes, I think at that point someone displaying some humility realised that actually this person really cares and understands this issue, this is the biggest issue, and let’s make him Home Secretary because he will be able to empathise and deal with it, and that’s what we actually need to do.
Andy Coulson: But you didn’t feel a sense of pride in the moment, or in the days after?
Sajid Javid: In the days after, of course I was happy to be Home Secretary, a great office of state, such an important job. In the first couple of days yes, I was so sort of consumed by what I had to do, it’s such an important role in normal times but especially at the time of that crisis. And I hadn’t actually appreciated until later someone mentioned to me, when I became Culture Secretary I was the first MP that was not white to become a Cabinet Minister, to become a Secretary of State. But this was the first as a great office of state. And I hadn’t really sort of appreciated that bit.
But you know, it didn’t make any difference to me in terms of my job. You know, I had a job to do.
Andy Coulson: But the line from- if we just chart it in terms of this conversation that we’ve been having. If we chart the line from you walking past your mum trying to wipe off racist abuse from her shop window when you’re on your way to school, to you walking into the Home Office as the Home Secretary, is incredible.
At any point, perhaps after the event, I don’t know when, perhaps you’ll tell me, has that achievement- have you appreciated it?
Sajid Javid: I don’t know if I have. And when you say it like that, I mean, if anyone had seen me living on Stapleton Road in Bristol above the family shop, you know, then, to some thirty or so years later as Home Secretary, I think you know, if someone said that, you know, “This kid on Stapleton Road could be Home Secretary one day,” I think no one would have- they’d have thought you’d need your head examining.
I think I really haven’t sat there and thought, “Let me appreciate that,” and whether it was as Home Secretary or Chancellor or Health Secretary in a pandemic, but- I mean you said it at the start, I feel that throughout my political career, that often when there was a crisis or a problem, it was, “Let’s get Sajid in to deal with it.”
And in some ways I think that’s a compliment in the sense that they think you can deal with a crisis and you can manage those situations, but what it didn’t- not allow me to do was to stay longer in a particular job and make sort of much longer lasting reform, which is I would have wanted to do in each of those departments.
Andy Coulson: Sajid, it was during your time as Home Secretary that you lost your brother Tariq, who took his own life. You’ve been open about the pain, obviously, of his death, but also your survivor’s guilt as you put it. Explain that for me.
Sajid Javid: Well, as you say, I was Home Secretary at the time. Obviously I was busy, but you know, you should never be so busy that- you know, I feel that if people you love can’t come to you and spend time with you to talk about what’s on their mind. And I now know what I didn’t know then, was clearly something that my brother Tariq was having serious mental health challenges and other challenges in his life. He didn’t talk to me about it, he didn’t talk to any of my brothers about it, he kept it all in, and then he killed himself. And I feel that had I known, maybe I would have been able to do something about it. And had my brothers known maybe we could have done something about it, but we didn’t.
He didn’t talk to me, and he used to talk to me a lot when I was less busy, if I can put it that way, and maybe he thought, “I shouldn’t disturb Sajid because he’s really busy, he’s trying to help run the country,” or whatever. And I feel that what I should have done is noticed- since then I have learned a lot about suicide prevention, I’ve worked with some great charities and learned a lot from them, and talked to a lot of people.
Andy Coulson: You’ve done a lot work with the Samaritans haven’t you?
Sajid Javid: The Samaritans and others. And I have learned about how one can try and spot some of the signs of someone who might be having suicidal thoughts, about how to talk to them. And particularly men find it harder to- 70% of suicides are men, and it’s harder to talk to I think on these issues. And had I known that and thought about that, I would have done something about it. But I didn’t, and I’m not going to get another chance.
And so it was a very difficult period for me because obviously he was my brother, and how close I was and all the brothers were. And then after that I thought, “I need to- I want to do more about this.” And then many years later when I later found myself as Health Secretary, and that’s the department that has the responsibility for the policy area if we can call it that, I made it one of my priorities, and wanted a suicide prevention plan, cross-government, ten years, fully thought-through, funded and all that. And that’s what has happened. But also it’s something that I continue to want to do more on.
Andy Coulson: Talking about what happened, and I think some perhaps discouraged you from talking about what happened, which is one of the issues around suicide, was a very powerful decision, that I have no doubt has helped many others. Has it helped you?
Sajid Javid: It has helped me in the sense that I think- has it helped me to talk about it? Yes it has. But what I want to do from this is to help prevent suicide, and I think I’m in a position where I can do something about it. And I will continue to do that.
For example, I didn’t know until after Tariq’s death, that suicide is the biggest killer of people under the age of 30 and the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in this country. And I’ve known that for a few years now, but every time I say it it still shocks me. And I think most people don’t know that.
And also there are some things not that difficult that anyone can do to try and spot these signs, because sadly at some point in one’s life you may- you are quite likely to come across someone who might have these kinds of thoughts. And so the more we all know about it, the more we can do.
Andy Coulson: So give me three things, for the audience listening to this now, in that context, what is it in sort of practical terms?
Sajid Javid: The most important thing is to get people to talk, right? And as I say, it’s harder with men. Get them to talk and to open up. And in doing so, it’s perfectly okay to say to someone, to use the word suicide. Say actually, “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” It’s perfectly okay. And in fact a lot of people would say it’s almost a good way to open the subject, because suddenly people will think, “You know what I’m thinking, you know what I’m going through,” and they will be much more likely to open up.
And another thing is to say that there are certain risk factors for people who do sadly take their own lives. And it’s knowing about what those risk factors are. They could have had another loss in their family, they could be having severe financial problems, it could be a severe health problem, and looking for those- thinking about your friends that might have suddenly gone quiet, off the radar so to speak, and might be having one of these other issues, and trying to put that together.
But by the way, I would just say on the Samaritans website it’s fantastic, there’s full information. If someone just spent five minutes looking at that they would learn a lot and they can probably go on to save a life.
Andy Coulson: July 2019 Sajid, you become Chancellor. Another amazing moment for you. But in February 2020 you resign after refusing to dismiss your team of special advisors. A crisis of an altogether different kind, a sort of crisis around a point of principle. Was that actually an easy decision for you?
Sajid Javid: In one sense it was. It was a pretty black and white decision and there was no other way I could have gone. So in that sense it was, in the- you know. There I was, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is saying, “Hey, you’re going to be reappointed, it’s great, you’re a great Chancellor, blah blah,” and then he says, “Oh by the way, there’s one condition; you’ve got to fire all your advisors.”
Andy Coulson: That’s literally how he put it?
Sajid Javid: Pretty much yes, that’s pretty much it. “You’ve got to fire all your advisors.” I had six special advisors, “You’ve got to fire them.”
Andy Coulson: Just the two of you in the room?
Sajid Javid: No, it was the Cabinet Secretary, the Head of Compliance and Ethics.
Andy Coulson: Dominic Cummings whose-
Sajid Javid: No, Dominic Cummings wasn’t in the room.
Andy Coulson: Dominic Cummings whose idea it was for you to have the entire team replaced was not in the room.
Sajid Javid: If he had been in the room it would have been far too obvious because you could- you know, you could tell just from his facial expressions. So- and I could see that the Prime Minister then was you know, following instructions, because it was the only point in the discussion where he was looking at his notes and reading from his notes and not giving me eye contact. So I knew, as you said, he is feeling uncomfortable because he has been told to do this, and he was taking his instructions from Mr Cummings.
And then obviously I- actually I reacted immediately, I said, “I can’t do that, I’m not doing that.” And I remember saying to him, I said, “Look, these people that you’re talking about, these advisers, they are like long-term Conservative supports. They have helped the party, they have worked for other ministers, Prime Ministers,” my Chief of Staff had worked for David Cameron. “These are like some of our best people, you just want me to fire them?” And then he said, “Saj, they’re only people. Don’t worry about it.” And I said, “Well,” I said, “I’m not doing it.” And he said, “Why? Don’t you want the job? Don’t you want to be Chancellor?” I said, “Yes, of course I do. But I’m not going to do this.”
Then he asked me to take some time out, ten or fifteen minutes to think about it. I think partly it was because he could see I’m not going to do this, he hadn’t-
Andy Coulson: Do you step out- this is in the Cabinet room, is it? So you step out.
Sajid Javid: Yes. I step out in one of the side rooms, he goes back into his study, I cannot be sure but I’m 99% sure to consult Mr Cummings about what to do next. While I’m in this room I get two of his most senior people come in, and they say, “This is all Cummings. Just do what he’s saying because Cummings will be gone soon anyway. Just agree for now otherwise you’ll have to- you know, he won’t change his mind.”
Anyway, obviously I couldn’t because I just- I just thought to myself in that room, I sat there and I thought, you know, “Imagine me now going back to the Treasury, getting my team together,” my SpAds, who have been with my through thick and thin, some of them in the Home Office dealing with the most difficult situations, some in the Communities dealing with some of the biggest crises I had. And I go in there and say, “I’m alright Jack. You’re all gone but I’m alright Jack.” I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.
And then I went back to the Prime Minister and I said, “I’m not doing it.” He begged me to change my mind again and again and I said, “You’re going to have to decide, it’s either me or Cummings,” and he clearly was deciding on Cummings. And I said to him, “Fine.” I said, “That guy,” as in Cummings, “He’s not going to be content until he burns the house down. He’s running rings around you-”
Andy Coulson: That’s the phrase you used, was it?
Sajid Javid: Yes, and then I walked out.
Andy Coulson: Well, you weren’t wrong were you?
Sajid Javid: Well, I was going to say unfortunately, but it was all entirely predictable. And then I went up, the next thing I went out of the Cabinet room to the internal lift, went up to my flat above Number 10, my wife was in there, and she obviously didn’t know anything because none of this was public at this point, it was all right afterwards.
And she says, “Oh congratulations,” thinking I’d been reappointed, and I said, “No, I quit.” And she looked at me and she goes, “You haven’t?” And I said, “I have.” And she said, “What happened?” I said, “I’ll tell you later, but I’ve quit.” I said, “But what you need to do right now is get the dog, get a bag, and go to our house in London, because the Press will be all outside the house in a minute, and leave right now.” And she said, “But I want to know.” I said, “No, just get the dog and go. I’ve got to go back to the office.”
Obviously she was very supportive, and then that was it. And then Boris called me that evening to say how sorry he was and it’s not what he wanted and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t regret the decision one bit. I couldn’t have done anything else.
Andy Coulson: You must have been bloody furious.
Sajid Javid: I was furious. Because that job, being Chancellor, obviously was a great, great opportunity, especially after we’d just won an election with a decent majority, to make some real change. And the thing that I really, really wanted to get my teeth into was the sort of, what Boris called levelling up. And obviously easily said, much harder done, and I just felt it was perfect for me in terms of the experience I had in government, outside government, my background and everything. And I’d worked on this a lot during the election campaign in- for example two months before I left as Chancellor in December I had given Boris a twenty-page personal minute, detail by detail, on every aspect of government policy about how you level up. And I’d really thought about this, and I thought, “We’ve got five years, we’ve got a majority and I’m really going to get my teeth into growth around the country, into skills, into infrastructure,” I was so looking forward to it.
Andy Coulson: That is the tragedy of Boris Johnson, is the missed opportunity. We can talk about the narcissism, we can talk about the dysfunction, and obviously you’ve just given us a gold plated example of it. We can talk about the political failures, but the real- I think what will stand the test of time as a summary is the massive missed opportunity.
Sajid Javid: It was massive. It’s massive, because you know, we could- with that majority, with the plans that I had that he, you know, every time I talked about it he said he liked it and we could do it, and I felt I could be empowered to do this. And instead he takes that route that he did, listening to the wrong people.
Andy Coulson: So how do we break this cycle of dysfunction then, Sajid? How do we sort of- I guess I’m going right back to the start of the conversation, right? Of where politics is right now. How do we start to- whether it’s a Conservative party or whether it’s a Labour party who of course most people now think will form our next government, we’ll see. But how do we break this kind of cycle of dysfunction and all those other characteristics that seem to have fallen in over the course of the last five or six years?
Now that you’re heading towards the exit door, what’s your sort of analysis of how we begin to repair all this?
Sajid Javid: I think first of all, overall we need better quality politicians. We need more talented politicians that are in it for the right reasons. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; I think we’ve got too many MPs for example, and for what you want from them the responsibilities that the county is giving them, they are not paid enough to get people of the right talent in.
Now, when I say that people say, “Oh my God, they’re paid twice the national average, you know, they shouldn’t be in it for the money.” And no one is saying that they’re in it for the money, but if you want people that are at the top of their game, be it in business or in the public sector, they could be doctors, teachers or whatever they are, right? And you want them to give up what they’ve got and come into politics, you’ve got to start by paying them something that’s going to help them keep whatever lifestyle they’ve got as a headteacher but get into politics.
I think that is important and we are nowhere near doing that because no politician would touch that conversation.
Andy Coulson: Yes.
Sajid Javid: Secondly, I think politicians collectively need to be much more honest with people about some of the big challenges we face. And top of the list I’d put the NHS. That is in crisis.
Andy Coulson: You’ve called for a Royal Commission.
Sajid Javid: Yes. It’s obvious it is going to stay in crisis until politicians take their heads out the sand and say, “Actually there’s a big problem here.” The reality is the NHS is not the envy of anyone else in the world. There is no one else in the world, certainly in any industrialised country, that looks at the NHS, and as soon as they understand it for five minutes they think, “I want that model.” No one wants that model, and there’s a reason for that.
Because we spend at least the same amount if not more as most other European countries for example, and in that you can throw also in Canada, Japan, Australia, those countries, that all have universal healthcare systems, but by and large they all have better outcomes.
And so something isn’t working. And no politician will stick their head up and say, “Actually, we need to look at this.” And that’s why I’ve called for a Royal Commission, because I think that’s the best way to try and- not quite neutralise it, but to try and say, “Look, let’s keep a sort of consensus around the principles, but let’s look at what’s working in other countries, and learn from it, and see if we can apply that here, and let’s bring the great and the good together.”
So I definitely, passionately think we should have a Royal Commission on it, and that requires the heads of all the major parties, certainly the two big ones, to come together and agree to that. And we seem nowhere near that at this point, but it’s something I’m going to keep fighting for.
And there are other big issues. You know, NHS is the top of the list, but others that I’ve mentioned, like housing. You know, we have too many NIMBYs in Parliament, right? And we’re going backwards on housing. We’ve got more than enough land in this country to build the homes the country needs, and we need to just be honest about that, and have that grown-up debate.
Now, the problem with all this, and you’ll recognise this because you’ve seen it, is that it’s easy to say all of this, but how you actually get the politicians there- and that’s why I was trying to use things like the Royal Commission as the sort of mechanism for almost- politicians, that they know there’s a problem, they don’t really want to say it themselves, almost like they can hide behind it and say, “Look, the Royal Commission said this so we’d better do it,” type thing.
And in the past we’ve faced these problems before, but unfortunately I think that we now seem to be in a bit of a situation where unless something turns into a major, major crisis we don’t make the reforms that are necessary. We don’t do enough of looking ahead to what could be a crisis and trying to address that now, right? Through crisis prevention.
Andy Coulson: You’ve said you are standing down. Does that mean the door has closed forever for you on politics? You’ve made that decision?
Sajid Javid: I’ve made the decision that obviously I am leaving Parliament and politics. What I will still want to do, because you know, it’s me, is that my interest in the country and its challenges, in social challenges in particular, is still strong, and I want to still do things when I’ve left Parliament, certainly spend a big chunk of my time doing things that are addressing social challenges, social causes.
And I feel that because I’m not in the government of the day or even in Parliament that I can be maybe a bit more open about the challenges that we face, try to come up with sort of practical ways. Maybe I can do more work cross parties and work with other from other political parties.
Andy Coulson: But if the stars aligned, and anything can happen in politics these days, David Cameron has just come back to be Foreign Secretary-
Sajid Javid: I thought you were going to say that.
Andy Coulson: Anything can happen. Have you completely closed the door on- because you’re still- in political terms you’ve got years ahead of you.
Sajid Javid: Yes, I don’t think I’ll be back. I don’t think I’ll be doing a David Cameron, I don’t see that. But I will still stay involved in my own way.
Andy Coulson: Great. Sajid, thank you for your time today. A fantastic conversation, and thanks for being so open and fulsome in the telling of your astonishing story, because it is an astonishing story. I really appreciate it.
Sajid Javid: Thank you very much.
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