POLITICS
12/06/2019 19:03 BST | Updated 12/06/2019 19:06 BST

Tory Leadership: Sajid Javid Brands Boris Johnson 'Yesterday's News'

Home secretary casts himself as the "change candidate" as he underlines working-class background.

Sajid Javid has made a bold pitch to be Tory leader and prime minister as he branded frontrunner Boris Johnson “yesterday’s news”. 

The Home Secretary, the last of ten MPs to set out their stall in the race for the top job, cast himself as the “change candidate” as he underlined his working-class roots. 

The Bromsgrove MP, who would be the UK’s first PM from a BAME background, pulled no punches when asked about his rival and favourite for the job, Johnson, who has faced accusations of Islamophobia. 

When asked what separated them, Javid said: “I would say I’m a change candidate - Boris Johnson is yesterday’s news.

“He’s been around in politics for a while, he’s achieved a lot, he’s still got a big role to play.

“But I think if we’re trying to connect with the next generation and move forward as a country then I think it’s time for the next generation with a bold new agenda.”

Javid, who was introduced by Ruth Davidson - the Scottish Tory leader who has revived the party’s fortunes north of the border - urged Conservatives not to “risk” picking “the short-term, comfort zone choice” as he outlined a “beyond Brexit” vision to boost growth outside London. 

“I believe now more than ever that at this moment as we face the challenges that are unlike any that we have faced before, this calls for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader,” he said. 

“A leader is not just for Christmas, or just for Brexit.” 

Acknowledging he was not a frontrunner - Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab all have more MP backers - Javid outlined a number of occasions when he felt like an “outsider”.

He said: “When I was at secondary school, the other kids told me about their summer holidays. I only ever went to Rochdale on holiday, so I pretended to go on holiday and they couldn’t tell whether this was a tan or not.

“I was told kids like me should know their limits, and kids like me should stay in their lane.

“So when I got racially abused in school by the toughest guy in school, well, rightly or wrongly, I punched him.”

Rochdale-born Javid, one of three candidates for PM not to have been educated at Oxford University, was also asked whether Johnson had displayed Islamophobia in comparing burka-wearing Muslim women with “letterboxes” and “bankrobbers”. 

Javid refused to criticise Johnson directly on the issue, but told a packed launch event at Westminster’s Mill Bank on Wednesday he was “concerned about the rise of division in politics” as he said an “external” figure should investigate whether the Tories have deeper issues with Islamophobia.

“It’s not just in the UK,” he added. “Some politicians, I’m not talking about anyone in particular but politicians around the world, think the way to win votes is to exploit division.

“I’m very worried about that. I think the leader of the Labour Party is all about identity politics, about absolutism, no compromise whatsoever, and I’m concerned about that.” 

Javid, who has also served as communities secretary in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and previously as business secretary the Scottish Tories “threw out central casting and picked someone totally different” in Davidson, whose party replaced Scottish Labour as the main opposition to the SNP in Holyrood in 2016.

He said Davidson “brought change” and suggested he could “make people look at our party again”.

Davidson, mother to Finn with fiancee Jen Wilson, gave her full throated support at the event. 

“I’m a new mum who needs a pretty big reason right now to jump on a flight and spend extra hours away from my boy,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it for just anyone.

“This is a phrase I have not used very often, but he’s the man for me.”

Javid’s campaign has support from Tory stalwart Tim Montgomerie, Commons education committee chair Robert Halfon and, significantly, political strategist and ex-chief executive of Vote Leave Matthew Elliott. 

Critics, however, said Javid will struggle to appeal to the Conservative Party membership and that, with the first ballot of MPs kicking off on Thursday, any momentum he has built up may be too late to make a difference. 

Hunt, meanwhile, has key endorsements from Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd. 

Ex-Brexit Secretary Raab and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have loyal bands of supporters. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove is thought to have as many as 34 supporters, but his campaign has taken a hit after the MP admitted he had taken cocaine in the past. 

The leadership contest works by MPs backing contenders in a series of ballots until the candidates are whittled down to two who then face a vote of Tory members. 

At the first ballot,on Thursday, MPs hoping to succeed Theresa May with 16 MPs or fewer backing them will be eliminated. At the second ballot, the threshold has been raised to 32 or fewer.

According to Conservative Home, Johnson has 79 MPs, Hunt 37, Gove 34, Raab 23, Javid 19 and Hancock 16.