New Year's Honours 2019: Stalwart Tory organiser David Douglas and council's old finance chief Theo Blackwell made MBE
PUBLISHED: 22:30 28 December 2018
Two figures interwoven with Camden's political scene are set to be honoured by the Queen as they have been named in the New Year's Honours List.
David Douglas, agent for Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives and former Camden councillor, and finance chief Theo Blackwell will both be made MBEs for their work.
David, who lives in Alexandra in Haringey, has been coordinating and managing the local Tory Party since 1995. Originally from Doncaster, he has seen Tory numbers on the Camden Council benches swell and fall, and the party come within 42 votes of unseating Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn.
“I thought it was somebody winding me up,” he told the Ham&High. “When I realised it was real I started walking around my flat and hyperventilating. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to a lad from Donny.”
Recipients of honours have been told they’ll be called up to the palace in next two months, but David will struggle to make at least one date in February – the heavy metal fan has got a prior commitment with Ozzy Osborne.
“I’m off to see Ozzy in Frankfurt,” he said. “Hopefully the palace won’t mind!”
David has spent more than three decades involved in Tory politics, getting a letter from Theresa May last year in recognition.
“There’s been so many changes,” he said.
Even before he started working as a Conservative in Camden, he was used to ploughing a lonely furrow as a member of the Young Conservatives in Doncaster in the 1980s.
“I didn’t care,” he said. “There were around 50 Young Conservatives in Doncaster. I used to work around at the height of the miners’ strike with an ‘I love Maggie’ T-shirt on.”
Although Theo Blackwell has long since left the benches of Judd Street and the Crowndale Centre, he has fond memories of his time there.
“I look back really happily,” he said, “although I’m glad to get my evenings back. I miss being invited into people’s lives.
“We used to do an event in the summer in Primrose Hill and raise some money, and councillors used to flip burgers for it. It was always enjoyable to engage residents like that.”
The former Gospel Oak councillor stood down from Camden Council after 15 years in August 2017 due to his new appointment as Sadiq Khan’s chief digital officer. His MBE is for services to local government digital transformation.
“I’m really pleased,” he said, “and was shocked when I opened this pale cream envelope on my doormat with around four pieces of paper in.
“It’s been a tough year with my mum passing away. I thought of how proud she would have been of me.”
The honour is in recognition of Theo’s work with data and digital while at Camden, which stemmed from the 45-year-old’s work in the gaming industry for Ukie.
“I realised that as a progressive council we had this data on our citizens and communities, and we could make their lives better if we used it properly,” he said.
Theo has now left Camden altogether after more than 30 years in the borough, and lives in Crystal Palace.
Elsewhere, Veronica Lewis of the Conservertoire for Dance and Drama in King’s Cross will be made a CBE, while Richard Alston – who runs the Richard Alston Dance Company school in Euston – will be knighted.