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Conservative strategy guru aligns himself with Hampstead liberal

PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 March 2012

Danny Finklestein, The Times chief leader writer talks to Hampstead Tories

Danny Finklestein, The Times chief leader writer talks to Hampstead Tories

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Journalist and a former leading light in Conservative Party strategy, Daniel Finkelstein, has confessed his political allegiance to the Hampstead liberal.

The chief leader writer on The Times was part of a great upheaval at Tory HQ to try to modernise what he thought had become an outdated and disconnected party in the later years of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership.

The driving force was to make the Conservatives appear more socially liberal, something Mr Finkelstein firmly associates with Hampstead Village.

Mr Finkelstein, who went to University College School in Hampstead, told the Ham&High: “When it comes to immigration and human rights I am more of a Hampstead liberal. Being a first generation immigrant (of German parents), I am grateful for English liberalism and moderation.

“That’s what I associate with the Hampstead liberal and I find that is something which is hard to dislike.

‘‘That being said, I can’t see myself voting for the Hampstead Liberals, with a big L, any time soon.”

When he joined Finchley Conservatives in the 1990s, his path crossed with another Tory who was also convinced that the party needed to adapt to survive.

Both Mr Finkelstein and Brian Coleman, now a member of the London Assembly, ran for seats on Barnet Council.

The two have remained firm friends ever since.

“Brian was very welcoming when I first joined, but I also thought he was a very early moderniser,” said Mr Finkelstein at an event organised by Hampstead Conservatives.

“He was someone who said the Conservative Party needed to change, needed to be a modern party.

“It was hard to achieve when he was representing the Finchley Conservatives at that time when Margaret Thatcher had only just stepped down as MP for that area.”

Barnet environment boss Cllr Coleman is running for re-election for the General London Authority seat for Barnet and Camden.

Last week he was ordered to apologise to residents for sending offensive emails – the second time he has been found to be in breach of Barnet’s code of conduct in two-and-a-half years.

“You don’t want to go through politics and never make an impact,” said Mr Finkelstein.

“Sometimes Brian is controversial and I mostly think he is right and, yes, sometimes it is to make an impact and it’s quite impressive.

“I quite enjoy his style. It’s quite robust, but he has never done anything to make me re-think him as a friend.”

A liberal – but firmly in the small L category – Mr Finkelstein said he has admiration for what the Lib Dems have done in government.

“The Liberal Democrats took a lot of risks and behaved very responsibly and Nick Clegg showed great qualities to do that,” he said.

“But we warn them now that they took a big decision and they need to see the consequences. They cannot turn back to the left.”

He continued: “They are stuck, married to the coalition idea, and have to make a success of it.”


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