“Brexit & Beyond” – the slogan adorning Sajid Javid’s lectern – sounds like the title of the chapter towards the end of a guidebook where you are told about the bits of the country you do not really need to see if you are in a rush.
My popular culture correspondent assures me, however, it actually recalls Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase in Toy Story, “To infinity and beyond!”
Javid held the last launch, on the day the biggest beast had already launched. The tenth candidate was delayed for several hours by the shenanigans in the Commons, so his friendly campaign staff urged us to have a drink.
Ruth Davidson, who was to introduce him, bounced about telling jokes. The view from the Skyloft, on the 28th floor of the Millbank Tower, was as wonderful as ever, and thanks to the absence of disco music, the atmosphere was less louche than when Michael Gove held his launch there, a long time ago as it now seems, though it was only on Monday.
And here were Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConHome, and David Burrowes, who has his interview with ConHome as the pinned tweet at the top of his Twitter feed, a practice which ought to be more widely observed.
They and Robert Halfon, who now chairs Javid’s campaign team, have been friends since the four of them met at Exeter University, where they renamed part of the Student Union building “Norman Tebbit Corridor”. One looks in vain for that enlightened and progressive measure in Javid’s leadership programme.
Davidson introduced him with a short and charming speech: “Now this is a phrase I’ve not used very often, but he’s the man for me.”
Javid came on with a broad smile. He described how, when he looked for a job in banking, the “old school bankers with their old school ties” had no time for him.
He was altogether very down on old school ties. This seemed a bit ungrateful to David Cameron. But Javid is pitching as the outsider, the non-traditional Tory, Westminster’s version of Davidson.
Yet Javid and Davidson are in many ways highly traditional figures; an affirmation of the Conservative tradition; living proof of the adaptability of that form of politics. He is, after all, Home Secretary, and before that he reached, despite the dreaded old school ties, the top of a bank.
Javid’s script was uninspiring. He allowed himself to say “our best days do lie ahead of us”. He is like a batsman who shows flashes of brilliance, makes shots over which other players would labour look absurdly easy, but has somehow not yet amassed a winning score in an important match.
Nick Watt, of Newsnight, asked if Javid was worried about the introduction by Johnson of “Trumpian tactics” in the UK.
Javid rather admirably replied: “I think that was a warm-up act for me.” But he had already said he was concerned about divisive politics.
“I would like to be able to write a story about this leadership election which is not about Boris Johnson,” one of the reporters covering this launch said as we marched back along Millbank to the Palace of Westminster.
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