Sajid Javid pitches Conservatives as the ‘Workers’ party’

Matthew Elliott

Matthew Elliott (CEO of Vote Leave and co-chair of Javid’s recent leadership campaign) examines how the Chancellor is keeping his head down, getting the job done and ignoring soundings-off in the media.

Sajid Javid’s conference speech was a big moment for him and, in some respects, his first big speech as Chancellor, after a planned speech in August was cancelled and his Spending Round statement was comprehensively overshadowed by the debate over prorogation. The video ahead of his speech naturally included an appearance from Bailey – the No.11 dog – and it finished with the peroration “For Brexit, and beyond” – one of his leadership election slogans.

Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun’s influential Political Editor, described it as the “best speech of the conference so far… combining emotion with striking new policy, and a powerful defining message for workers’ Toryism. He is without doubt now the leader-in-waiting.”

The emotion began at the outset, when the Chancellor welcomed his mum to her first Conservative Party conference by saying: “She watched the first Asians moving into Coronation Street… now she’s watched the first Asians move into Downing Street”. Adding in Punjabi, “did you ever think we’d be here?” Even the often-cynical Quentin Letts tweeted that it “felt like a moment”.

There were many striking new policies, but the one which dominated the evening TV bulletins was his commitment to increasing the National Living Wage to £10.50 by 2024, from its current level of £8.21. Depending on your politics, this is either slightly less generous or more realistic than Labour’s commitment in this area but, either way, it will go some way to neutralise Labour’s advantage on this issue in the expected general election.

As for the powerful defining message, the ‘Workers’ Party’ theme built on the National Living Wage announcement, but also enveloped the other doorstep-ready announcements in the speech, including a £25 billion “infrastructure revolution” to include nationwide 5G broadband, revitalised bus services and upgrades to major roads.

The Workers’ Party phrase was first coined by Robert Halfon, Chairman of the Education select committee and my fellow co-chairman on Sajid Javid’s leadership campaign, and it resonates with voters. I expect we’ll hear more of it in the coming weeks.

Yesterday the Chancellor’s team will have noted the results of the latest ConservativeHome cabinet poll, which puts Sajid Javid in top place again – a position he’s held since the leadership contest. He’s keeping his head down, getting the job done and ignoring soundings-off in the media. His warm reception at Conservative conference yesterday was eminently well deserved.

Matthew Elliott was CEO of Vote Leave and co-chaired Sajid Javid’s recent leadership campaign.