Sajid Javid was criticized by community leaders, business owners, and residents of a multicultural street in Bristol where he lived as a boy, calling them the most dangerous street in Britain.
People living and working on Stapleton Road claimed that the Home Secretary, a pioneer who replaced Theresa May as Prime Minister, immortalized an outdated, unfair and unhelpful image of the area.
Javid said this week to an audience of youth workers in London, "I grew up on a tabloid newspaper that called Britain's most dangerous street. It's not so hard to see how, instead of being in the cabinet, I could have a crime life myself.
"There were drug addicts who stood near my school gate and told me if I could get involved, I could make easy money."
Former students at the school said they did not recognize the image of drug addicts who wanted to turn children into traders.
"There is no reason for him to call Stapleton Road the most dangerous in the UK," said Abdul Malik, who owns a number of butchers in and around Stapleton Road and is the mosque chairman, school governor and magistrate. "After his departure, the community has spent many years trying to make things better.
"He has to wake up with the things that have brought this area forward. Every opportunity I get, I put in an area that people should visit and love. He chooses to show how he fought. "
Born in Greater Manchester, Javid moved to Bristol as a child and spent several years living in an apartment above his clothing store on Stapleton Road. Javid left Bristol for a successful career in the City of London before becoming a member of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and advancing the Tory ranks.
Malik said he knew Javid's late father because he used his butcher shop. "He was a very good uncle of us, but Sajid was never involved in the community. I think what he says is pretty offensive. "
Afzal Shah, a Labor councilor, said Stapleton Road is one of Bristol's busiest areas. "We speak about 91 languages spoken in Bristol. You can hear most here. There is great energy and great potential. "
Shah attended the same school as Javid and knows members of his family. "When I was leaving [shortly after the home secretary] There were no drug dealers at the school gates. "
The City Council walked down the street, pointing to thriving businesses – a $ 5 million car dealership, a successful healthcare tech company, vibrant cafes and shops. It's a shiny new yoga studio on the street.
"I think it's very disappointing," Shah said. "We have an incredible talent here. I would ask people to come down the street. The area has changed beyond recognition. "
Javid did not mention the street by name in his speech, but many people in Bristol knew what he was talking about. The street northeast of the city center made headlines in 2002 when David Blunkett, predecessor of Javid as Home Secretary, announced that this was one of the five high-crime areas where police would receive special help. Blunkett was torn during a visit on the street by residents who considered him a government stunt.
In 2011, the Sunday People wrote that Stapleton Road was Britain's worst street. She described her as a "lawless hellhole in which murder, rape, shootings, drug abuse, prostitution, knives and violent robbery are commonplace".
As Javi's star rose, he talked about his roots in Stapleton Road. In 2016, he visited the two-bedroom apartment above the family shop, where he lived with his parents and four brothers, the political editor of the Sonne in tow. The tabloid described Javid, the then Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sports, and came in a "chauffeur driven" Jaguar state on the "bad roads".
He returned to The Times last October, when he was a secretary and posed at the Monte Carlo cafe where he played pinball.
People began to feel that Javid was using the street to support his backstory as he was angling for the top job.
The owner of the Monte Carlo, Shahin Amani, originally from Afghanistan and taking over the business from the Greek family that led him as a child to Javid, admitted that he had felt cautious about moving to the area.
"It has a good reputation. It's a place where people troubles when they're looking for trouble, but if you continue with your life, people will leave you alone. "
"It's a lot of bullshit," said Clare Mobley, a florist who has been traveling since the mid-1990s. Their kids walked up and down Stapleton Road and never had a problem. "The place has moved on," she said.
Jason Summerhill, whose family has been running a newsagent for 35 years, said it was a friendly, friendly community. "We like it here. The people are wonderful. "
Nobody says Stapleton Road and the surrounding streets are criminal-free. There were problems with gang violence and sexual care here. In February, 158 crimes-including 45 violent or sexual ones-were reported in the neighborhood of the Trinity police force, which included the apartment where Javid lived. However, many took place in the streets off the main road, and in the same month, 249 crimes were reported in the city center.
"You see some problems," said Mutethya Wa Mutunga, who was sitting in the sunshine drumming trade for a Caribbean restaurant. "But you can see that in every city center. This is a good place. "
People say they are trying to do something about it. When an 18-year-old man was stabbed to death on Stapleton Road in January, the Bristol Horn Youth Concern group, which works mainly with the Somali community, hosted a sports tournament to bring people together.
As part of a series on knife crime called Beyond the Blade, the Guardian spoke to help workers understand the variety of services offered to young people in places like Stapleton Road. The argument is that comments like those made by Javid hinder efforts.
Rayan Wilson, who runs the company Back2Action, a company that supports elite athletes, said that Javid's comments were "not okay, irresponsible."
He said, "When people are in a position of power, they have to take care of the language they use. When we stir up the fire of negativity, people listen. It disempower you.
"Stapleton Road is a mini-England for me. There are so many different cultures that come together to make a road to success. They are all side by side, complement each other, jump off and form a community. "