Sajid Javid: 'I could have had a life of crime'

This article is more than 2 months old

Home secretary positions himself as tough on crime in Tory leadership race

Sajid Javid delivers his speech to youth workers and police officers in east London.
Sajid Javid delivers his speech to youth workers and police officers in east London. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Sajid Javid has began a week of interventions from Conservative leadership candidates as they jostle for position with a speech claiming he could easily have ended up living a life of crime.

With Theresa May away for an Easter break, the home secretary was the first of the leadership hopefuls to start positioning himself as tough on crime, speaking of his background growing up on what he claimed was Britain???s ???most dangerous street???.

He described knife crime as a national emergency and launched an enthusiastic defence of stop and search, a police tactic discouraged by May because of the divisive effect on communities.

Speaking to an audience of youth workers and senior police officers in east London on Monday, Javid set out his views on his home affairs brief, saying the ???mindset of government needs to shift??? to tackle violence among young people. It needed to use data more effectively to improve understanding of the routes into violence and crime.

Some of Javid???s critics have suggested the home secretary lacks ???a front story??? that sets out a distinctive political agenda ??? a reference to his compelling backstory as the Rochdale-born son of Pakistani immigrants, who rose to become home secretary.

Javid said his own start in life ???could have been very different??? had he not had the good influence of his parents and teachers.

???I grew up on what one tabloid dubbed Britain???s most dangerous street,??? he said. ???It???s not so difficult to see how, instead of being in cabinet, I could have turned out to have a life of crime myself. Pupils at my school were shoplifting and asked me if I wanted to help.

???There were drug addicts who stood near my school gates and told me if I joined in I could make some easy money. But I was lucky, I had loving and supportive parents who, despite my own circumstances, gave me the security that I needed.???

He said news reports about young people feeling they needed to carry weapons made him worry about his own four children ??? three of whom are teenagers.

???I may be the home secretary but I???m not ashamed to confess I have stayed up late at night waiting to hear the key turning in the door and only then going to bed knowing that they have come home safe and sound,??? he said.

???When I watch the news and I see the faces of all those lost to knife crime ??? I cannot help but see the faces of my own children. I find it hard to detach the personal from the policy.???

He said: ???If I don???t feel safe or don???t think the streets are safe enough for my own children, then something has gone terribly wrong???. Polling data released last week suggests that public concern about crime is at its highest since the riots of 2011.

Javid???s first public salvo in the Conservative leadership race comes after he sl