With BoJo ensconced as prime minister, attention has turned to the cabinet picks charged with getting the UK back on track after a period of extensive political tumult. Of particular interest to AccountingWEB members, of course, is the newly appointed chancellor.
Well, that’s that then: the era of ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ is now completely over. Hammond, a remainer and anti-Johnson dissident, had already made way before Theresa May’s resignation. We now have his replacement: Sajid Javid, a two-times failed contender for Tory leader and former home secretary, has been handed the keys to number 11.
Javid took to Twitter -- as modern politicians are wont to do -- to thank his new boss for the opportunity:
Deeply honoured to be appointed Chancellor by PM @BorisJohnson. Looking forward to working with @hmtreasury to prepare for leaving the EU, unifying our country and priming our economy for the incredible opportunities that lie ahead.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) July 24, 2019
Born in Rochdale, Lancashire to Pakistani immigrant parents, Javid has traced a more uncommon path to highest rungs of Westminster. He attended state comprehensive in Bristol before studying politics and economics at Exeter University. It was in Exeter where he joined the Conservative Party.
Upon concluding his studies, Javid embarked on a career in investment banking, working for Chase Manhattan Bank and then Deutsche Bank. He enjoyed a rapid ascent up the ranks, becoming a senior managing director at Deutsche Bank by the age of 40. He left his career in 2009 to pursue a career in politics.
As a politician, Javid can be hard to classify: a long-time Eurosceptic who voted Remain, he said, “with a heavy heart”; a Thatcher devotee charged with loosening the purse strings to fulfil Johnson’s vision of “better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household”.
Throughout his leadership bid, Javid’s rhetoric was conciliatory rather inflammatory, but with a firm line on the necessity of delivering an EU exit. “We must get on and deliver Brexit,” Javid said in the video announcing his leadership bid, but he added, it was important to “restore trust, bring unity, and create new opportunities across the UK”.
It’s from this latest leadership bid where we can possibly glean the most detail of Javid’s policy agenda. He has already said he wouldn’t oppose a no-deal Brexit and signalled an intention to prepare an "emergency Budget" including tax cuts to foam the runway.
Indeed, tax cuts seem to be rather high on the new chancellor’s to-do list. During his leadership bid, Javid said he wanted to cut the basic rate, and even told the press he’d consider scrapping the top rate of income tax altogether.
Another centrepiece of his leadership bid was a “£100bn National Infrastructure Fund”. “Taking advantage of some of the lowest interest rates in centuries to invest in projects which will create jobs and ensure the British economy is fit for the future,” Javid explained. “This fund would be based outside London, with a core aim of rebalancing our economy.”
In his new position in Johnson’s cabinet, Javid’s days as a political chameleon are likely numbered. The new prime minister has assembled a partisan core group to deliver Brexit come hell-or-high water. Over the next few months, Javid might find his aspirations of a united Britain dashed as a febrile political environment begins to grip.
But at least he is optimistic. In the speech announcing his leadership bid, Javid said he is “used to people trying to tell me what I can’t do”.
“I’ve always been more interested in what I can do. I know what I can do. And 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.”
Johnson’s cabinet also includes two representatives from the accounting profession. Step forward Liz Truss and Alok Sharma.
Qualified management accountant Truss takes the international trade secretary post. She’s joined in the cabinet by her fellow accountant alumnus and now the new secretary of state for international development Alok Sharma, who qualified with Deloitte.
About Francois Badenhorst
I'm AccountingWEB's business editor. Feel free to get in touch with comments, tips, scoops or irreverent banter.