London, July 25 (Agencies): Bearing testimony to Britain’s march towards becoming a truly multi-racial country, two South Asians, an Indian and a Pakistani, have been given top positions in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.
Priti Patel, of Indian origin has become Home Secretary (Interior Miniser) and Sajid Javid has become Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), two of the most important portfolios in the cabinet.
Priti Patel, an ardent Brexiteer who was among the most vocal critics of Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, took charge as Britain’s first Indian-origin Home Secretary on Thursday.
She replaces Pakistani-origin Sajid Javid, who moves to the Treasury department as the first ethnic minority Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe, our people secure, and also to fight the scourge of crime that we see on our streets. I look forward to the challenges that now lie ahead,” Patel said, in reference to her new job at the helm of the UK Home Office.
Patel had been a prominent member of the “Back Boris” campaign for the Conservative Party leadership and was widely tipped for the plum post in the prime minister’s frontline team.
“It is important that the cabinet should represent modern Britain as well as a modern Conservative Party,” she said, hours before her appointment was announced on Wednesday.
A long-standing Eurosceptic, Patel had steered the “Vote Leave” campaign in the lead-up to the June, 2016 referendum in favour of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).
The 47-year-old was first elected as a Conservative MP for Witham in Essex in 2010 and gained prominence in the then David Cameron-led Tory government as his Indian Diaspora Champion.
She went on to be appointed to junior ministerial posts, Treasury Minister in 2014 and then employment minister after the 2015 general election, before May promoted her to the position of secretary of state in the Department for International Development (DfID) in 2016, until she was forced to quit the post in 2017.
“With Boris Johnson leading the Conservative Party and as prime minister, the United Kingdom will have a leader who believes in Britain, will implement a new vision for the future of the country and a roadmap to move forward and thrive as a self-governing nation that re-establishes our ties with our friends and allies around the world such as India,” Patel told PTI after Johnson secured a landslide victory in the Tory leadership contest earlier this week.
To Further UK-India Ties
“He is committed to securing new and improved trading relationship with our friends in India and ensuring that the values we share — the rule of law, democracy, and dynamic entrepreneurial spirit — should be at the heart of one of our most important partners on the global stage,” Patel, who has been a champion of India-UK ties ever since her time as Indian Diaspora Champion, said.
As a member of the UK Parliament’s influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), she was part of the team that recently released its damning report warning that the UK was falling behind in the race to engage with India at the end of a lengthy Global Britain and India parliamentary inquiry.
“Our report calls for the government to look again at the relationship between the UK and India,” Patel said, in reference to the “Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties” report released last month to mark the first-ever India Day in the UK Parliament.
“This should be a special relationship based upon the living bridge between our two great countries and a partnership we should be nurturing. The report covers many of the missed opportunities where the UK should be proactively and bilaterally enhancing our ties. We are soon to have a new PM in the UK, which will provide a welcome change in how we engage with India’s re-elected PM Modi,” she said at the time.
Patel once again returns as the senior-most British Indian member of the UK cabinet, having been forced to resign in November, 2017 as International Development secretary amid a scandal over allegedly failing to disclose meetings with officials in Israel without informing the UK Foreign Office.
She had maintained that it was a private visit and Johnson, then the UK foreign secretary, spoke out to back her.
From Humble Origin To Holding UK’s Purse Strings
Sajid Javid became Britain’s first ethnic minority finance minister on Wednesday, capping off an unlikely rise from a humble start on a street dubbed the country’s worst to holding the purse strings for the world’s fifth-biggest economy.
The 49-year-old son of Pakistani immigrant parents, Javid cut his teeth early in finance, becoming a vice president at US Chase Manhattan Bank at the age of 25 and a minister just four years after entering parliament.
Javid, seen as a safe pair of hands who stirs few emotions among colleagues in the governing Conservative Party, is a great admirer of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher – he has a portrait of the “Iron Lady” in his office.
Her passion for free markets and low taxes seems to have rubbed off on a relatively shy man who, in contrast to his new boss, is not known for his oratory.
He has also called for a big increase in public investment infrastructure projects, a policy more associated with the Labour opposition than his Conservative Party.
Asked by a Conservative what being a party member meant to him, Javid said: “Conservatism is how I got to where I am.”
“It provides two essential things in life: a strong foundation of values and society, and a springboard of freedom and opportunities.”
Javid will have to manage the economy at a time when it could be abruptly wrenched out of the European Union, pick the next Bank of England Governor and protect London’s position as one of the world’s top two finance centres.
He will probably also to have to find a way to relax austerity with the economy facing a slowdown, and possibly a recession. Some investors are worried about Britain’s large balance of payments deficit.
His appointment signals Johnson’s intent with the economy – he wants to see a more interventionist approach – but also underlines his desire to have someone who will help, rather than hinder, his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU by Oct. 31.
“Javid will be a great choice as chancellor,” said Iain Anderson, executive chairman of Cicero, a public affairs company that has represented many FTSE 100 firms. “He cares about business and wants to incentivise it.”
Javid said during his failed bid to lead the Conservative Party that he would prepare for a no-deal Brexit with an emergency budget that would include tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
He also has proposed the creation of a 100 billion-pound ($125 billion) National Infrastructure Fund to take advantage of ultra-low borrowing costs and invest in projects that would rebalance the economy, taking a leaf out of the book of Britain’s left-wing opposition Labour Party.
But as a euro-sceptic who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, Javid must persuade the hardline Brexit supporters within his own party that he will now work to deliver Britain’s departure from the EU.
“He’s not got star quality. He’s the kind of bloke you’d want to hire as your accountant,” said one veteran Conservative and Brexit supporter on condition of anonymity.
Being a “nerd”, though, might just be what Johnson needs in his finance minister, a role just one step away from the pinnacle of British power which can make or break a prime minister’s reign.
With Johnson banking on his optimism and “can do” spirit to break an impasse over Brexit, he will need someone who can ensure the economy weathers Britain’s departure from the EU.
After holding up better than expected after Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union in 2016, the economy is showing signs of a slowdown – and possibly even a recession.
Javid said during his leadership bid he would prepare for a no-deal Brexit with an emergency budget that would include tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
Now Chancellor of the Exchequer, the formal title of the finance minister in Britain, this son of a bus driver has come a long way since growing up in Bristol’s Stapleton Road, once dubbed Britain’s worst street by a newspaper.
After studying economics and politics at Exeter University Javid joined Chase Manhattan bank. During an almost 20 year career in banking he also oversaw trading in debt instruments blamed for causing the global financial crisis.
In politics, his ascension was also swift. Elected to parliament in 2010, he became secretary of state for culture just four years later, putting him in charge of an entire government department.
He was later promoted to the interior ministry, one of the big offices of state.
Now Javid, who says he felt like an outsider at the age of six, becomes finance minister and, as the economy stalls, he may have to draw on some the resilience that he described during his party leadership campaign.
“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.”