FIRST IN A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS WITH THE LOCAL CANDIDATES FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION 2015
Will Blair is the Conservative Party candidate for Holborn and St Pancras – the constituency that includes Primrose Hill – and very happy about that he is too.
Having lived in the constituency since 2007, first in Bloomsbury then in Kentish Town from 2009, he breaks in to a broad smile when he lists the delights of his neighbourhood: the pubs, restaurants, the general buzz and the transport links. Over coffee in Lincoln’s Inn Fields it became evident that Blair has a passion for the constituency and would like to become its MP very much indeed.
But what does he feel is the biggest issue facing the area?
“Housing. There is an acute lack of social and affordable housing.”
Blair points out that Camden has one of the longest waiting-lists for social housing in the country, and adds that by 2010, house-building had shrunk to the lowest levels since the 1920s. “Labour were asleep on the job,” he told me.
The ‘help to buy’ scheme established by the Conservatives has improved matters somewhat, Blair feels, and he has high hopes for the proposed ‘Starter Homes’ scheme, which is intended to help 200,000 first-time buyers under the age of forty.
And the potential mansion tax, suggested in various forms by other parties and which is a worry to many in Primrose Hill, particularly those who bought their homes years ago for the going rate, and have found the exponential rise in its value has rocketed it into mansion-tax territory?
“The mansion tax is a tax on aspiration and prosperity, not what Britain is about in my opinion. It’s a very unbritish idea,” he stated firmly.
The lack of social housing is one reason amongst many, according to Blair, why another local issue is so crucial: HS2, to which Blair is “firmly opposed.” Several blocks of homes will be lost, exacerbating the housing problem which has already been identified. He adds that the loss of the businesses on Drummond Street, known for its Indian restaurants, will disproportionately affect the Bengali community and will wipe out what he describes as “a special and historic part of Camden.”
But where would that leave him with his party, which is currently staunchly pursuing HS2?
With a rueful chuckle, Blair explains that he would stick to his guns. “I was on the BBC’s ‘Sunday Politics London’ recently, and I spent my first TV appearance as a politician disagreeing with Conservative policy. If and when I’m elected, I would urge whatever government we have to take the opportunity to reflect and consider whether HS2 is a good use of money. It’s not too late to think again, and in any case I will be lobbying really hard against it within the party.”
Is Blair inspired by any role models? Firstly he is quick to name his late father. “I have immense respect for him and he made me the person that I am. He was a very kind and gentle man. For him, opportunity was all about education, which he saw as giving someone the tools to open the door to life.”
And in politics? “John Major. I admire the way he worked his way to the top from humble beginnings, and I believe in his brand of one-nation conservatism, that capitalists are responsible for looking after the most vulnerable in society.”
Not quite yet thirty, an Oxford graduate; I had to ask: real person, career politician – or both?
“Definitely a real person!” was Blair’s emphatic response. “I’m not just a politician. I’ve worked as a campsite receptionist, a security guard, I’ve done minimum wage jobs. I’ve worked hard for my money. I went to a state primary and a comprehensive, and I won a scholarship to go to an independent sixth form. I’ve always been interested in politics, and I spent ten months as an intern before the 2010 election working with Damian Green, but my experience has been very varied.”
Whatever you feel about his policies or the Conservative Party, Will Blair has a genuine passion this constituency and his determination to stick to his principles is a breath of fresh air. Long may it last.
I’ll be asking the other candidates similar questions over the next few weeks and of course you’ll be the first to know what they told me…
© 2015 Joanna Reeves, all rights reserved.