The new home secretary, Sajid Javid, the first BAME holder of one of the great offices of state, will find an inbox brimming not just with the backlash over the Windrush scandal, but with arguments to come over policing cuts and rising knife crime as well as a difficult counter-terror climate.
Born in Rochdale in 1969, the former investment banker and Margaret Thatcher devotee, is on the right of the Conservative party. His appointment will give him a voice on the powerful cabinet subcommittee on Brexit and will keep the balance of EU leavers and remainers in the top offices, but he can only be categorised as a remainer in the most technical sense.
Javid backed remain in the referendum, probably under pressure from David Cameron, saying it was with a “heavy heart and no enthusiasm”. He has since swung firmly behind leavers in the cabinet.
His instincts were always Eurosceptic. His university friend and Tory colleague Robert Halfon recalled him being thrown out of the party conference as a young activist for handing out anti-European exchange rate mechanism leaflets.
Javid would want to make his mark in the Home Office, he said. “He is utterly decent, a high-flyer who has not forgotten his roots,” Halfon said.
“He will have his own vision for the Home Office. It’s a counter-intuitive appointment in some ways but it is a very important symbol because of his background, his humble origins and as the first Muslim home secretary.”
Just last week, he tweeted a hard line on the customs union, saying: “British people gave politicians clear instructions through EU referendum … includes leaving the customs union, an intrinsic part of the EU. Britain must leave [customs union] and be able to negotiate and sign own trade deals.”
His other hero apart from Thatcher is Ayn Rand – he recounted once that he regularly rereads the courtroom scene from her novel The Fountainhead, telling the Spectator he admired its description of “the power of the individual … sticking up for your beliefs, against popular opinion”.
Javid came into politics having been the former head of credit trading at Deutsche Bank, which the Evening Standard once estimated had required him to take a 98% pay cut.
The job put him at the heart of the credit trading business that precipitated the financial crash, and it was in 2009 he made the leap from banking to politics, which he once quipped was “another unpopular profession”.
Elected in 2010, the MP for Bromsgrove rose quickly, coached as parliamentary private secretary to George Osborne before continuing as a protege of the former chancellor in junior roles at the Treasury.
He got his first cabinet job in just his fourth year in parliament when he was appointed culture secretary in 2014, and then business secretary after the 2015 election, where he authored the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years.
After an abortive attempt with his friend Stephen Crabb to mount a bid for the leadership, where he would have been chancellor, he took the communities brief under May, with the explicit task of overseeing the prime minister’s pledge to tackle the housing crisis.
Their relationship has not been close – he has been more than forthright about the failures of the 2017 election campaign and the conduct of advisers in No 10.
“In private, he was perhaps the most vocally critical of how that campaign was run and who was running it, of anyone round that cabinet table. He didn’t hold back. They certainly did not see eye-to-eye last summer,” one friend said.
On housing, he has clashed with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, who rejected Javid’s demand for a £50bn cash injection to fund a massive housebuilding drive.
His housing white paper admitted the market was “broken” and laid the blame almost entirely on low rates of housebuilding, but Labour said the proposals were feeble with limited proposals to help renters.
His biggest challenge in the brief, however, has been the Grenfell Tower disaster, where the government has faced mounting criticism for stalling on promises to the victims’ families. He admitted just weeks ago the government was likely to break its promise to permanently rehouse within a year all those made homeless.
The focus will be on how Javid responds to concerns about the ripple effects of the Home Office’s “hostile environment”, a policy that May has underlined in recent weeks that she sees no reason to halt, despite its devastating impact on Windrush-era migrants pursued unjustly for their paperwork.
It is an issue that is personal for Javid. He was the first Tory cabinet minister to break ranks as anger over the Windrush scandal mounted, tweeting he was “deeply concerned” about the treatment of people detailed in the Guardian.
In an article this weekend, he told the Sunday Telegraph: “I thought that could be my mum … my dad … my uncle … it could be me.”
However, should Javid intend to stamp a new culture on the Home Office, it could put him on a collision course with his boss, who made it clear in her letter to Rudd that illegal migrants “should expect to feel the full force of the law and know that they will be removed”.
The phrase was used extensively by May in the Home Office, a hint Javid is prepared to break with the prime minister. Asked by Tory MP Nick Boles if he would “retire some legacy policies”, Javid replied he was “certainly putting on my own stamp”.
However, there is little hard evidence that he is preparing to dismantle May’s strategy in principle, saying previously there is “nothing racist about managed migration”. In parliament, he has consistently backed the government’s policies to enforce tighter restrictions on immigration.
On migration, his main interest is integration, a subject on which he oversaw a government green paper at the former Department for Communities and Local Government.
He described his own experience as a “six-year-old interpreter” for his Pakistani mother and pledged to expand English-language learning, though the strategy was criticised for its paltry £50m pledge of funding over two years.