Thursday, May 19

Sajid Javid sounds like a lockdown skeptic, but he won’t want to alienate the NHS | Tim bale

Sajid Javid. Who doesn’t know the backstory from poverty to riches? Immigrant parents, local competition and FE college, Exeter economics and politics degree, stellar career in international banking, 98% pay cut to become MP, rapid rise up the ministerial ladder, culminating in your home. secretary and then chancellor, only to resign when Dominic Cummings took over.

But now that “The Saj” (does anyone really call him that?) Is back in the big game, replacing Matt Hancock as secretary of health and social care (not officially one of the so-called great state offices, though after the past year and a half surely should be) what should we expect? Ayn Rand or Florence Nightingale? A neo-Darwinian who is hell-bent on opening up the economy no matter what; Or a numbers nerdy humanitarian who is mostly trying to save lives?

To hear some early talk, especially in newspapers that support conservatives, whose neoliberal ideology (along with their advertising-based business models), has seen them continually urging Boris Johnson to go further and faster. To ease the restrictions, the new secretary of health is very much in his camp. Indicate the proverbial “well-placed source” that says the daily Telegraph that “he is a skeptic of the royal confinement … the inclination in the cabinet has changed considerably”.

Certainly, Javid’s initial public pronouncements could easily be spun in this “hard” vein. It may have started by dashing the frankly absurd hopes of some conservative backbenchers in the self-described Covid Recovery Group of an even earlier end to what they see as the equivalent of martial law in a nanny state. But, confirming the full reopening on July 19, despite the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant, Javid’s words must have been sweet music to his libertarian ears: “No date we choose is zero risk. for Covid, “he told the Commons.” We can’t eliminate it, we have to learn to live with it. “

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The fact that he then went on to state that “my task is to help restore the economic and cultural life that makes this country so great” may only have contributed to his growing enthusiasm, especially given that his rider – “while, of course , protect life and our NHS ”- seemed to have been added almost as an afterthought.

Those already inclined to worry about Javid’s appointment will also point to the fact that, either during his initial ascent to the top or during his subsequent 18 months in the relative wilderness, he appears to have shown little interest in either topic. for which he is now responsible. In fact, they could very well argue that, as a former Conservative Chancellor (and George Osborne’s former Junior Treasury Minister), the man now tasked with finding the resources to address the huge backlog of procedures and pressure for pay increases facing the NHS, is happiest when he says “no” instead of “yes we can!”

However, this could be premature. For one thing, Javid is not the cardboard cutout austerian Tory that he has sometimes passed himself off. In 2019, he was quick to acknowledge the case to promise a significant increase in health spending in that year’s conservative manifesto. On the other hand, Javid is not only more pragmatic than people give him credit for, but he knows that the minority community that his own family comes from has been hit harder than most by Covid-19.

As a result, and because he is also one of the few cabinet ministers with a genuine affinity for numbers and data, Javid is no more likely than the much-maligned Hancock to ignore whatever the evidence seems to tell him, even if you don’t always like it.

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In any case, in the end, no health secretary is an island. Javid may be in a position that is virtually impossible to take out at the moment. But you don’t want to start by alienating your top science advisers, or the massive ranks of the NHS and its powerful political community, not if you want your new job to be a success.

Javid is also an elected politician. You may one day fancy another bent toward leadership, so of course your fellow parliamentarians, many of whom are skeptical of the blockade, are important. But so do the voters. And polls show that while most of us expect more freedom, we don’t want it at any price.

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