Sajid Javid has revealed he could have been drawn into a life of crime, as he admitted the bloodshed on Britain’s streets has left him fearing for his children’s safety.
The Home Secretary described how he avoided being lured into shoplifting or drug dealing when growing up on what was dubbed “the most dangerous street in Britain”.
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
He cited his personal experiences as a boy and a father as he set out his blueprint for tackling the “national emergency” of surging violence.
In a speech in east London, Mr Javid said: “It’s not so difficult to see how, instead of being in the Cabinet, I could have actually turned out to have a life of crime myself.
“There were the pupils at school that shoplifted, and asked if I wanted to help.
“There were the drug dealers who stood near my school gates and told me that if joined in, I too could make some easy money.
“But I was lucky. I had loving and supporting parents, who despite their own circumstances gave me security."
Mr Javid, a father-of-four, described how recent increases in serious violence and knife crime have affected him as a parent.
He said: “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."
“I know that if I don’t feel safe on the streets, if I don’t think the streets are safe enough for my own children, or if we see our communities being torn apart by crime, then something has gone terribly wrong," Mr Javid added.
Mr Javid was asked by ITV News Correspondent Carl Dinnen given the personal nature of his speech, whether this should be viewed as a leadership bid.
But the Home Secretary refuted the suggestion and said even "if I go out to buy a cup of coffee, people think he must be on leadership moves."
He said knife was a serious issue and as he had been in the job for almost a year, it was only right he sets out how the Government aims to tackle the rise in violent crime.
The Government and police have come under intense pressure over violent crime.
Earlier this year a spate of fatal stabbings prompted warnings of a “national emergency”.
There were 285 homicides where the method of killing was by a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales in 2017/18 – the highest number since records started in 1946.
In the year to September, police recorded about 1.5 million “violence against the person” offences – a jump of nearly a fifth on the previous 12 months.
Polling data released last week suggested that public concern about crime is at its highest since the riots of 2011.
Ministers have announced a £100 million cash injection for police to tackle knife crime and relaxed rules on the use of enhanced stop-and-search powers in badly hit areas.
He defended his decision to boost stop-and-search, insisting: “There are people alive today because of stop-and-search.”
Mr Javid, who said serious violence should be treated like “the outbreak of some virulent disease – a national emergency”, also sought to reassure frontline staff about the Government’s proposed “public health approach” to the issue.
Under the plans, state bodies could be made subject to a legal duty requiring them to have “due regard” to the prevention and tackling of serious violence.
The proposals drew criticism from leaders in a number of the professions that would be affected.
Mr Javid said: “It is not about blaming those frontline staff for the violence, or asking them to do more.
“Far from it. It is about giving them the confidence to report their concerns, safe in the knowledge that everyone will close ranks to protect that child.”