Speaking yesterday at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Sajid Javid announced a plan to rise the National Living Wage to £10.50 in 2024.
The new target would bring the National Living Wage up to two thirds of median earnings. Putting it forward as an “ambitious plan”, Javid announced an aspiration to make the UK “one of the first major economies in the world to end low pay altogether”.
The National Living Wage, currently £8.21, is the minimum wage payable to workers aged 25 and over. Under Javid’s plans, the age at which employees qualify for the Living Wage would drop to 21.
The announcement comes as the Conservative Party looks to target traditional Labour heartlands with the prospect of a general election on the horizon. Likely to lose seats north of the border to the SNP and Remain-voting southern seats to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party will need to gain support in Northern Labour constituencies to secure a majority.
The speech reinforced the central slogan of the Tory conference, which likewise looks to appeal to Northern leave-voting areas: ‘Get Brexit Done’. Javid emphasised the primacy of the 2016 referendum (“democracy isn’t just for when it suits you”) and presented the party’s Brexit policy as the route to bringing a divided nation together (“I passionately believe that we need to heal the divisions in our society: the way to do that isn’t to carry on arguing about Brexit”).
Javid used the beginning of his address to refer to his upbringing as the child of Pakistani immigrants to Britain. Welcoming his mother to her first party conference, he said “Mum thought it was a big deal when she saw the first Asians move into Coronation Street, here in Manchester. Well now she’s watched the first Asians move into Downing Street”. Seeking to stress a degree of continuity between his youth and his current position, he joked that “once again, we’re living above the shop”. He then addressed her briefly in Punjabi, the language spoken by Sajid Javid’s family and by more than 250,000 British people.
With his speech, Javid sought to present a united front with Johnson, who is under intense scrutiny following an accusation this Sunday that he groped two journalists at a lunch, and enquiries into his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, the young businesswoman whose company received a £100,000 taxpayer-funded grant while Johnson was mayor.
Speaking of Johnson, Javid stressed that “we’re not just neighbours, or even sometimes dog-sitters: we are partners”. Looking to emphasise his enthusiasm for the increased spending on the NHS and the police force which Johnson has promised, Javid said that “we share the same […] vision of one-nation conservatism”. With a brief hand-gesture over his bald head, Javid mimicked a Boris-esque ruffle of the hair and told the audience that “we both spend about the same amount of time brushing our hair”.