Were George Osborne to become (a scarily neo-con) Foreign Secretary if the Tories win the next election, would Sajid Javid be Chancellor? Nothing in his Cabinet Commons debut suggested he wouldn’t. True, looking good after Maria Miller isn’t hard. And everyone was pretty friendly, reluctant, perhaps, to make an enemy of someone heading for the top, as the Rochdale-born bus driver’s son could be.
Javid was friendly back. And tactful. “Who would have thought a month ago, when [he] and I were sharing a drink at Birmingham City University, that he would be where he is now?” asked the recently dismissed (over HS2) Tory vice chairman Michael Fabricant. “I remember that drink well,” said the new Culture Secretary enigmatically. What could this mean? That it was spiked? That Fabricant bored him rigid with stories of his time as Brighton disc jockey Micky Fabb? That he had insisted Javid use a flexible straw, an invention – another of Micky’s claims to fame – of his maternal great uncle?
He was ready to meet any MP who asked, along with one or two who didn’t. Including Labour’s Sharon Hodgson who touched a nerve by pointing out to the man who had described ticket touts as “classic entrepreneurs” that “thousands of tickets for the Rugby World Cup are already for sale online at many times face value”. And an irritated Chris Bryant (Labour) derided his bland reference – on press regulation – to “bad apples” to describe the “systematic abuse” of hacking victims.
But the huffy arts world chuntering about his not being a known aesthete (he watched a lot of Star Trek in the ’80s – not exactly a capital crime) didn’t come up. And he said – admittedly answering a question on corporate sponsorship – that he had now been to the Matisse at Tate Modern, the Vikings at the British Museum, and the Globe Theatre – supported by Deutsche Bank, where he used to be a head honcho.
So this was quite an occasion, to which Javid’s opposite number Harriet Harman rose, saying his promotion sent out a “strong signal” that “our politics must be for people from all communities, all ethnicities and all walks of life”, before bemoaning the decline in schools music. Javid replied that “the work that she did in government, especially on equalities, has had a lasting impact”.
Earlier, Chief Whip Sir George Young moved the by-election writ for Newark “in the room of Patrick Mercer, who since his election for the said County Constituency has been appointed to the Office of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty’s Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham ...”. Only the British parliament can make disgrace sound like a cushy number.