Being a vastly influential business lobbying group, the CBI and its members must have been rubbing their hands with glee upon the appointment of the distinctly pro-business Thatcherite Sajid Javid as Business Secretary. 'Here is a man,' they must have crowed, 'that really understands us, and will champion our cause!' Any notion of Javid being a pushover for the business lobby was swiftly dispelled in the space of one short, sharp speech to the CBI on Monday night: instead of praising its efforts and prostrating before its members, the MP for Bromsgrove delivered a damning verdict on their unabashedly pro-Europe stance.
He was correct to do so. As a business lobby, the CBI is well within its rights to adopt whatever position they choose regarding the EU Referendum: they have to lobby for whatever they feel is best for business. Javid's point, in an emphatic castigation of his dinner hosts, was that to be so openly and inordinately in favour of remaining in the European Union is simply barmy when trying to secure the best deal for British business. To illustrate this, he used the poker analogy of showing one's cards to an opponent prior to a hand being played out, an apt metaphor given the series of bluffs that have recently been played out between the EU and Greece. Brussels is aware of the influence that the CBI wields, and their brazen disclosure of such an adamant anti-Brexit position will do the Prime Minister no favours at the negotiation table where, amongst other things, he is trying to secure a better deal for British business.
Asides from the obvious, the interesting takeaway from Monday evening is this: power suits Sajid Javid. He is firm but fair, and showed a ministerial combination of boldness and reason in his rebuke of a lobbying group used to much gentler treatment. With the debate over David Cameron's successor in 2020 starting to narrow proceedings to a two horse race between Osborne and Boris, the Conservative membership would do well to note the galloping Bromsgrovian coming up fast on the rails.