Why the US should welcome the new UK home secretary

Why the US should welcome the new UK home secretary
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The comings and goings of British home secretaries is normally of minimal interest to those outside Westminster. For good reason: they tend to have shorter shelf lives than a 1980s Soviet General Secretary.

Make an exception for the new home secretary, Sajid Javid. More should be aware of his backstory.

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Amber Rudd’s resignation, over an immigration scandal, may be a cause of regret to some in Washington. Rudd had been working hand-in-hand with the US on pressing the tech sector to do more to take terrorist content offline, making multiple trips in recent months — to both DC and Silicon Valley — in pressing home the point.

 

Yet that work should continue. Rudd was taking up a baton passed to her by Theresa May when the latter was home secretary. And there are reasons to believe that Javid will be a better fit for the Trump administration.

Javid has a striking background. The son of immigrants — including a bus-driver father — Javid became vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank by the time he was 25. Taking an enormous pay cut to become an MP, he has had a range of cabinet positions in recent years but is the first home secretary to be of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

Yet at a time where identity politics is seemingly the defining feature of almost every conversation, Javid has never indulged it. Instead, he has demonstrated an honesty to take on subjects so radioactive in the UK almost every other politician has deemed them untouchable.

For example, after al Qaeda massacred most of the staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015, and an ISIS-inspired gunman murdered five innocents in the hours that followed, leading politicians lined up to proclaim how the killings had nothing to do with Islam.

Howard Dean argued that the Paris attackers were “about as Muslim as I am.” John KerryJohn KerryThe real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting US can lead on climate action by supporting developing countries MORE — who later mused over whether these attacks were legitimate or merely had an understandable rationale — quickly headed over to Paris to sing “You’ve Got A Friend” to a bemused audience of French bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, Javid — who is of Muslim background — said that, “[t]he lazy answer would be to say that this has got nothing whatsoever to do with Islam or Muslims.” Instead, he went on, “there is a special burden on Muslim communities, because whether we like it or not, these terrorists call themselves Muslims. It is no good for people to say they are not Muslims.”

Take another issue that few politicians would ever wade into: the Muslim sex grooming gangs that were systematically raping predominantly white girls across the UK — in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, Bristol, Newcastle, Telford and Leicester, among many other towns.

As early as 2015, even before many of these examples had come to light, Javid pointed out that, “the perpetrators were disproportionately Asian Muslim men, and I absolutely think there has been a misplaced sense of political correctness that prevented authorities … from properly investigating what was going on.” He added: “In order to get to the bottom of this, we have to look at the cultural aspects of it, and we can no longer be held back in any sense by political correctness.”

This level of honestly is a rare quality in British politics. Admittedly, showing political courage and eschewing identity politics does not mean that Javid will make a good home secretary. However, his instincts are good, and he say what he thinks.

That is not just good news for British politics; it should also go down well in a US administration that can relate to a refusal to submit to orthodoxies of the past.

Robin Simcox is The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Fellow, specializing in the analysis of terrorism and national security issues.