Sta­bil­ity is key as Oliver seeks more

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - IN­TER­VIEW OLIVER DOWDEN BY DANIEL SUGARMAN HERTSMERE

OLIVER DOWDEN has been Hertsmere’s MP for just two years, but those years have seen a marked shift in Bri­tain’s po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

Prior to be­ing elected in 2015 he was David Cameron’s deputy chief of staff.

But barely 12 months after Mr Dowden en­tered Par­lia­ment, his for­mer boss sought the exit, after los­ing the ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s EU mem­ber­ship.

As Mr Dowden says, it is a “pro­foundly im­por­tant and in­ter­est­ing time to be in Par­lia­ment, at a time of such ex­tra­or­di­nary change”.

Born and raised in Hertsmere, he has seen the Jewish pop­u­la­tion in the area grow sig­nif­i­cantly, go­ing, as he puts it, “from be­ing slightly on the out­side to be­ing in­te­gral, and en­rich­ing com­mu­nity life enor­mously”. The con­stituency now has one of the largest Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try.

“On a na­tional level,” Mr Dowden says, “I’ve tried to be a voice for the com­mu­nity, for ex­am­ple, by stand­ing up to an­ti­semitism and anti-Is­raeli sen­ti­ment, in ques­tions and rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the Prime Min­is­ter and the Home Sec­re­tary”.

On lo­cal mat­ters, the 38-year-old has been busy deal­ing with trans­port is­sues such as the Thames­link rail route, and education.

“We’ve made some progress, but there’s a lot more to do”, he says. “I’ve man­aged to help get a new pri­mary school at Yavneh but, at the sec­ondary level, it’s pretty clear to me that we are at least one form short in the broader Hertsmere/north Lon­don area.

“There’s just not enough ca­pac­ity at Yavneh or the other

Jewish schools in north Lon­don. I will cer­tainly be con­tin­u­ing to cam­paign to get that greater ca­pac­ity, be­cause I know how frus­trat­ing it is for par­ents — par­tic­u­larly for Jewish par­ents, who want their child to have a good Jewish education — and there’s not a place for them.”

If re-elected, Mr Dowden high­lights “con­tin­u­ing to cham­pion Jewish com­mu­nal causes, im­prov­ing our trans­port, pro­tect­ing our green spa­ces, and help­ing to sup­port our lo­cal schools” as his pri­or­i­ties.

“On se­cu­rity, one of the sad­dest things as an MP rep­re­sent­ing a con­stituency with a large Jewish pop­u­la­tion is that when you visit Jewish schools or shuls, the level of se­cu­rity that you have to go through.

“Th­ese are chil­dren go­ing to school and fam­i­lies go­ing to wor­ship, and it’s a sad fact of life that se­cu­rity needs to be in place. I con­tinue to make the case for re­sources to pro­vide com­mu­nity se­cu­rity.”

How­ever, as Mr Dowden says, after June, “clearly a lot of at­ten­tion will be on the EU and the terms of our with­drawal. We’ll have to scru­ti­nise the terms of Bri­tain’s exit, so I will take a Sit­ting MP:

Oliver Dowden (Con) Ma­jor­ity: 18,461

Size of elec­torate: 70,772

Per­cent­age of Jewish vot­ers: 14.3 close in­ter­est in that”.

The re­sult in Hertsmere mir­rored that of the coun­try al­most ex­actly in the EU ref­er­en­dum: 50.8 per­cent voted to leave, 49.1 per­cent voted to re­main.

Like Theresa May, Mr Dowden is a for­mer Re­main sup­porter. He de­scribes him­self as hav­ing been a “re­luc­tant re­mainer… swung by two fac­tors, the eco­nomic im­pact and geopo­lit­i­cal im­pact of leaving.

“How­ever, I thought it was right for the Bri­tish peo­ple to have their say and, both lo­cally and na­tion­ally, peo­ple voted by a small but clear ma­jor­ity to leave the EU. So I see my job now as mak­ing sure that we ac­tu­ally de­liver on that, to get the best pos­si­ble deal.”

Labour and the Lib­eral Democrats are yet to se­lect their can­di­dates in the Hertsmere con­stituency.

Stitch up: Oliver Dowden lends a hand on Mitz­vah Day

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