The Conservative candidate bidding to replace Julie Kirkbride as Bromsgrove’s MP has pledged to publish every expenses claim on his website on the same day he submits them.
Former banker Sajid Javid said politicians faced an uphill battle to win back public trust following the expenses scandal, after sitting Tory MP Ms Kirkrbride and her husband, also a Conservative MP, were ordered to repay £60,000 to the taxpayer.
But he insisted he would not be defined by his religious background – after David Cameron highlighted him this week as a young British Muslim who was making his mark on the party.
The Tory leader name-checked Mr Javid in a high-profile speech which accompanied the launch of a poster campaign aimed at people who have never voted Conservative before.
Mr Cameron said: “I’m so proud that young British Muslims who may too often these days feel that instead of doors opening for them they’re being shut in their faces – that they can look at the Tory party, the Tory party with Sayeeda Warsi in the Shadow Cabinet, Sajid Javid in Bromsgrove, Zahid Iqbal in Bradford West and say yes, I am a Muslim, I’m British and I’m as welcome at the top of this society as anyone else in Britain.”
But Mr Javid said: “For me, that is completely insignificant. It is not in my thinking at all.”
He is one of a number of rising stars named as a “Parliamentary candidate to watch” in a study by consultants Insight Public Affairs.
Conservatives enjoyed a majority of 10,080 in Bromsgrove at the last election so Mr Javid should be confident of winning the seat this time around, but he may nonetheless face a challenge earning the respect of voters who have lost faith with politicians. Mr Javid said he believed candidates across the country would face similar challenges, but radical changes were needed to convince the public to trust politicians again.
“Winning back public confidence is required everywhere. I was campaigning in the Warwickshire North constituency recently, and we people there were challenging us over expenses and asking what MPs actually do.
“People are upset with politicians up and down the country. A new Parliament is just the start. Politicians need to behave differently.
“For example, MPs need to be completely transparent. I have already pledged that every expenses claim I ever make will be published on my website on the day I make them, with the receipts.”
But part of the answer is to give MPs more power, so that they are able to do a better job of representing constituents, he said.
“I think people believe back bench MPs in particular don’t have enough influence. I want them to have more of a say, for example by having greater powers to scrutinise legislation and over the Parliamentary timetable, so they rather than the Government are able to decide what is discussed.”
Without criticising Mr Cameron, he also made it clear he had no intention of being held up as proof of the Conservative Party’s commitment to diversity.
“Being a Muslim is part of my heritage, but it’s not part of my politics. “I grew up in a working class estate, my father was a bus driver, I have had a career outside politics, I am a father – all these things are what have defined me and motivated me in politics.
“Margaret Thatcher became my inspiration when I was young. People practice their religion in different ways. I would not describe myself as a practicing Muslim. My wife is Christian for example. Religion does not factor into my analysis at all.
“It is not how I choose to describe myself.”
Instead, he points to his career outside politics, as a vice president in Chase Manhattan Bank and then with Deutsche Bank.
“I think people will feel that we need people in politics from all walks of life, but particularly people with real world experience. I’m not a career politician.”
* Other candidates to watch
* Shabana Mahmood, Labour candidate for Ladywood, divided local party opinion and now hopes to replace Clare Short in the Commons.
*? Richard Burt, Lib Dem candidate for Worcestershire West is the husband of Solihull MP Lorely Burt. He is an outsider to overturn a 3,500 Conservative majority – although the Conservative candidate is an investment banker.
*? Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Conservative candidate for Chippenham. Born in Jamaica he grew up in Small Heath, and founded a successful agricultural business. He is somewhat of a rebel.
*? Margot James, Conservative candidate for Stourbridge, was selected from David Cameron’s “A-list” of preferred candidates, designed to get more women and ethnic minorities into winnable seats.
*? Emma Reynolds, Labour candidate for Wolverhampton North East. She is a former special advisor to Geoff Hoon when he was transport secretary and hopes to inherit Labour’s solid majority.