Sajid Javid called on the Conservative Party to follow the Scottish Tories in ditching “central casting” to elect an “outsider” like him as leader.
The Home Secretary heaped praise on Ruth Davidson, claiming she had demonstrated that the Tories can win when they appeal to votes from diverse backgrounds.
Mr Javid, the son of immigrants from Pakistan who became a managing director at Deutsche Bank, said his own backstory meant he would be a “new kind of leader”.
He dismissed frontrunner Boris Johnson as “yesterday’s news”, and in a coded attack on his privately educated rivals like Old Etonians Mr Johnson and Rory Stewart, called on the Tories to move away from “old insiders with the same old school ties”.
Mr Javid said the success of the Scottish Tories showed the Conservatives “can change and are changing”.
“For years, we were behind in Scotland... then the Scottish Conservatives threw out central casting and they election somebody totally different,” he said.
Mr Javid insisted he would “never do anything to undermine” the Union, even though Ms Davidson has said she does not support his stance of being prepared to accept a no-deal Brexit because it could risk the breakup of the UK.
Introducing the Home Secretary, the Scottish Tory leader said: “This is a phrase I have not used very often, but he’s the man for me.”
Mr Javid described growing up above his parents’ garment shop and avoiding members of the National Front on his walk to school.
He said the struggle to break into finance as an immigrant and win acceptance from his own family for his relationship with white, Christian wife meant he was an “outsider”.
“I’m a change candidate,” Mr Javid said. “Boris Johnson is yesterday’s news.
“He’s been around in politics for a while, he’s achieved a lot, he’s still got a big role to play, but I think if we are trying to connect with the next generation and move forward as a country then I think it’s time for the next generation with a bold new agenda.
“What I can do in terms of the policies, I think being able to articulate the policies, it’s not just about articulating that core message - I think the messenger makes a real difference as well.”
On Brexit, Mr Javid said he had the experience outside government to help him deliver the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and said he wanted to change the controversial Irish backstop.
“When I look at my own experience of doing deals - big international deals in the 19, 20-year career I had before I came into politics, I started at the bottom of the finance industry and finished towards the top - and that was because I built a reputation of doing many multi, multibillion-dollar deals.”
Asked about the Conservative Party’s handling of Islamophobia, Mr Javid said he would be “very happy” for an external organisation to “take a look” at complaints.