Highgate council hopeful: ‘Turning ideas into actions is the whole point of politics’

Henry Newman Picture: Henry Newman

Henry Newman Picture: Henry Newman - Credit: Archant

A former academic and government adviser is hoping to bring his experience of getting things done to Camden Council.

Henry Newman Picture: Henry Newman

Henry Newman Picture: Henry Newman - Credit: Archant

Henry Newman, the director of think tank Open Europe, was announced on March 4 as a Tory candidate for Highgate in the 2018 local elections.

The 34-year-old’s busy career has included time at the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice with Michael Gove, teaching at SOAS, learning Farsi and Arabic, studying at Harvard and nearly winning a Latin dance competition.

But now he’s ready to focus on bin collections, planning applications and recycling.

Mr Newman, who lives in Belsize Park, told the Ham&High that Camden – like Britain – is a “very special place”.

“My paternal grandmother’s family were German Jews who fled to Poland, then Scotland, and eventually Highgate,” he said, adding that his other grandmother ended up in Britain via Istanbul, Greece and Iran. “They both had lives turned upside down but both found a chance in Britain thanks to its incredible openness.”

His first political campaign was in primary school, where he was “super keen” on recycling.

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Waste – both financial and physical – remains one of his primary concern in politics. Discussing the planned changes to rubbish collection – which will include much of Camden moving to fortnightly pick-ups – he said: “You can’t punish people. The changes the council has made are very unfair.

“And the amount of money it will save is miniscule.”

He added: “I’m seeing lots of people in Highgate who aren’t usual Conservatives – some are staunchly Labour – who could vote for us because of this issue.”

Another major concern for Mr Newman is development in the area. It cannot be “stuck in aspic”, he said, but new buildings should be “in keeping with the area”.

But it isn’t just the quality of the buildings that he wants to preserve – he is also worried about the quality of the air.

“Whatever you think about climate change, you don’t want to live in an area that’s dirty,” he said.

“Pollution is shortening people’s lives. It’s terrifying.”

On the question of the rights of EU citizens living in Highgate, Mr Newman said he “regrets” the situation they are now in.

“They should have been guaranteed the right to stay in Britain,” he said. “But it can be resolved. I have an insight into the other side, too, because I have British relatives living in Greece.”

He voted to leave the EU, he added, only after thinking “very hard”.

Because “lots of issues are moving fast” in Camden – and because Jeremy Corbyn is “not providing leadership” to Labour – he thinks the Tories could win the borough in 2018. And should that happen, he hopes to bring his experience of converting enthusiasm into effective policies.

“We saved billions in government by selling offices we weren’t using, digitising services and designing things for the people who actually use them,” he said.

“Turning ideas into actions is the whole point of politics.”