Interview with Don Williams, the Conservative Candidate for Hampstead and Highgate
Don Williams, the former Swiss Cottage councillor, and current chairman of the Hampstead and Highgate Conservatives was elected on Wednesday, 13 December 2023 by members as their new parliamentary candidate. Don, a well-known figure in the area, served as a governor at the Royal Free Hospital for several years. He is dedicated to advocating for his constituents' needs and desires with passion. In this interview, we will delve into his background, career history, key policy areas, and how he distinguishes himself from his opponents.
Don, having spent your childhood in Kingston, Jamaica, how has your background shaped your values and perspectives?
I grew up between Kingston, Montreal and north London with my parents and grandparents. My mother’s family experienced conversion between Judaism and Catholicism due to the influence of the Spanish and Portuguese cultures. My father’s mother was a committed Anglican, whilst my father’s father started life as a Moravian Protestant. Living with and accommodating differences was ingrained in my childhood. As a teenager in Montreal, I had the opportunity to witness Quebec separatism up close, which taught me the importance of bridging cultural divides. And north London made multiculturalism a normal part of my everyday life. I feel at ease with dealing with people from everywhere.
My family also taught me the virtues of thrift, hard work and responsibility. We focused on saving rather than rampant purchasing.
Can you give me a summary of your career history?
My father worked in the insurance industry, which inspired me to pursue a career in finance. I started as an accountant at KPMG before moving on to work at WestLB, then a major German bank in London, and, later at Aviva. I have also worked as an international management consultant in the financial sector. Although I have mostly worked in finance, I did have a stint outside of that sector when I worked for a company that imported and distributed food, including bananas from the Caribbean and South America, fresh produce from Kent, and grapes from Chile.
Have you always been a Conservative?
Yes, I have always been a Conservative at heart. My father was a Conservative as well, he called it ‘controlled capitalism.’ He was very happy when Margaret Thatcher won the election in 1979, predicting that Britain would be once again on its feet after the disastrous Labour period in the 1970s. He was right. The best way of allocating resources and the best way of limiting the state is from a Conservative point of view. Before joining the Conservative Party in 1997, I used to be a quiet Conservative. However, after the disastrous election result of that year, I felt the need to become an active member.
You've been a Camden Councillor for 16 years, representing Swiss Cottage. How has this experience prepared you for the role of a Parliamentary candidate?
It helped me understand the needs and desires of our constituents, not just in Swiss Cottage but all over the constituency. The role exposed me to a wide range of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. Also, it deepened my love for the area in which I live and for the people who are my neighbours.
What key policy areas do you believe are most important for the residents of Hampstead and Highgate?
Controlling crime and making the streets as safe as they were in the 1990s is key. I want the streets to be safer for women, and for all to be able to walk the streets at night without the fear of an attack.
Additionally, this constituency is not moving, traffic is stuck on major roads such as Finchley Road and West End Lane. 20 mph on major trunk roads and Lower Traffic Neighbourhoods, decided capriciously, are destroying the livelihoods of many who live in Hampstead and Highgate, especially tradesmen, salesmen and those who need to move around for business. Parking is a nightmare for our local businesses and impacts their incomes. Traffic congestion hinders clean air initiatives – throttling engines will not improve air quality.
Additionally, with the cost-of-living crisis, I want young people, families, and pensioners in this constituency to have a brighter future which is why we need more tax cuts. Families need to have the money to do the best for their children, and parents should be able to leave their hard-earned money to their children without it being taxed at elevated rates. I will push for more money to be left in the pockets of all people who are working. Those who work in whatever form are best placed to spend their own money!
What distinguishes you from the Labour candidate? Why should voters choose you over the opposition?
I have been advocating for people in this area as a councillor, Conservative chairman or activist since 1997. I understand our local issues in depth. We differ on topics such as taxes, supporting local businesses, and protecting the livelihood of our constituents. Labour does not want to reduce taxes; they want to spend our constituents’ money for their political reasons. Regarding people making their livelihoods here, I will stand up for the tradesmen, salesmen and those who need to move about for their income. The Labour candidate has been very quiet about this with nothing said in her literature.
When it comes to bad developments, such as the future of the O2 centre, the Labour Council is going against local wishes. The O2 centre will be demolished so several buildings of flats can be constructed. However, these flats will not be affordable, and residents cannot expect to buy them in the future. People in Hampstead and Highgate want stable development, for people who aim to live here in the long term. If flats are going to be built, they want the ordinary person to be able to afford them. The Labour candidate is silent on all of this. I will, on the other hand, stand up for the community on developments like these. I have already received over 2000 signatures against the proposal for the flat development on the O2 centre.
At the end of the day, our constituents want a local MP who will support our community. I am the one to do so.
Who is your favourite politician, and what qualities do they possess that you admire?
Benjamin Disraeli is one I find very interesting. Disraeli opened new ground. He proved that there are no limits in this country, which is inspirational for someone like me who is from the Commonwealth. He was a great Prime Minister and achieved a lot for Britain.
Can you share a quote that you like?
I’m fond of Lord Acton’s saying: ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’
We must always hold those in power to account.
Interview conducted by K Ganzorig