Who is Sajid Javid, UK's new health secretary driving Covid-19 response?

London - Javid replaces Matt Hancock in the cabinet, which has the most Asian representation in British history



By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Sun 27 Jun 2021, 4:34 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Jun 2021, 4:35 PM

The appointment of Sajid Javid, the 51-year-old former banker of Pakistani origin in the key role as the United Kingdom’s (UK) new health secretary marks the fifth Asian in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet, making it the cabinet with the most Asian representation in British history.

Javid, son of a former bus conductor, has previously held several roles in the government, including his last position as Chancellor of the Exchequer until February 2020, when the incumbent, Rishi Sunak, was his deputy.

Pitchforked into the high-profile position of health secretary after Matt Hancock resigned on Saturday, Javid said on Sunday (June 27): “I was honoured to take up this position. I also know that it comes with huge responsibility. And I will do everything I can to make sure that I deliver for the people of this great country.”

He added: “We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible, and that will be my most immediate priority - to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible. Now, I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m sure you appreciate that. And if you can excuse me, I’d like to get on with it.”

Besides Javid and Sunak, the Asian representation in Johnson’s cabinet includes home secretary Priti Patel, COP26 president Alok Sharma and attorney-general Suella Braverman (nee Fernandes).

Javid’s new role will see him petitioning Sunak for more funds to deal with the pandemic.

Earlier, Javid has dealt with several issues related to the Indian subcontinent, when he held the positions of home secretary, business secretary and culture secretary.

These included interacting with the Tata Group, when it was in the process of repositioning its steel assets in the UK.

In 2015, when Javid was the business secretary, he wrote the foreword for a British Council report titled 'India Matters', which was welcomed in Indian quarters that believe colonial perceptions continue to influence British attitudes and policies towards a rapidly modernising India.

He wrote: “(A) shared past is not enough to keep a relationship going. With a fast-growing India now poised to become one of the world’s most influential nations and, potentially, one of the UK’s most important partners, this report represents a timely call to action for us all”.

He added, “This engagement must not be tackled piecemeal…This strategy needs to be founded on deep appreciation of each other’s contemporary culture, not on any outdated perceptions…As the balance of economic and political power shifts around the globe, we’re at a key juncture in the development of relations between India and the UK.”

Javid, who entered politics in 2009 after giving up a lucrative career in banking and rapidly rose in the Conservative party, announced his candidature in May 2019 in the election for the next Conservative leader and the PM, joining eight others in the race, following Theresa May's resignation amid rows over her handling of the Brexit process.

Javid, however, was eliminated when he polled few votes.

Johnson, eventually, won the election and succeeded May as the prime minister.


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