Oliver Dowden
Official portrait, 2022
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Assumed office
21 April 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded byDominic Raab
Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office
Assumed office
9 February 2023
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded byOffice established
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Assumed office
25 October 2022
Prime MinisterRishi Sunak
Preceded byNadhim Zahawi
Ministerial and party offices
2018‍–‍2022
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
15 September 2021 – 24 June 2022
Serving with Ben Elliot
LeaderBoris Johnson
Preceded byAmanda Milling
Succeeded byAndrew Stephenson
Minister without Portfolio
In office
15 September 2021 – 24 June 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byAmanda Milling
Succeeded byAndrew Stephenson
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
In office
13 February 2020 – 15 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byThe Baroness Morgan of Cotes
Succeeded byNadine Dorries
Minister for the Cabinet Office
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byDavid Lidington
Succeeded byMichael Gove
Paymaster General
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byJesse Norman
Succeeded byPenny Mordaunt
Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office
In office
9 January 2018 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byCaroline Nokes
Succeeded bySimon Hart
Member of Parliament
for Hertsmere
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byJames Clappison
Majority21,313 (40.8%)
Personal details
Born
Oliver James Dowden

(1978-08-01) 1 August 1978 (age 45)
Park Street, Hertfordshire, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse
Blythe Dowden
(m. 2008)
Children2
EducationParmiter's School
Alma materTrinity Hall, Cambridge
Signature
WebsiteParliamentary website

Oliver James Dowden CBE (born 1 August 1978) is a British politician and the current Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A member of the Conservative Party, he is also Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office[1][2] and has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hertsmere since 2015.

Dowden served in the Boris Johnson government as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General from 2019 to 2020 and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2020 to 2021. In the 2021 cabinet reshuffle, he was moved to the posts of Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, serving alongside Ben Elliot, and Minister without Portfolio. He resigned from these roles in June 2022.

Following a stint on the backbenches during Johnson's caretaker government and the premiership of Liz Truss, he was re-appointed to the Cabinet in October 2022 by new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was made Secretary of State in the Cabinet office in February 2023 and, following the resignation of Dominic Raab, was appointed deputy prime minister in April of the same year.

Early life and career

Dowden was born on 1 August 1978.[3] He grew up in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, being educated at Parmiter's School, a partially selective state comprehensive school in Garston, Watford. He said he had an "excellent state education",[4] before going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read law.[5]

Dowden joined the Conservative Research Department in 2004, moving to PR company Hill & Knowlton in 2007, before returning to the Conservative Party in 2009.[6]

He then worked as a special adviser and David Cameron's deputy chief of staff,[5] where he said most of his time was spent on "day-to-day crisis management".[7] Dowden was regarded as having expertise in the attacking form of political communications, leading to comparisons with Labour's Alastair Campbell.[6]

Political career

Early parliamentary career

Dowden was elected MP for Hertsmere in the 2015 general election, with a majority of 18,461 votes.[8] While standing, among the policy priorities he highlighted in his campaign were improving transport infrastructure, preserving green belt land and improving education.[9] He made his maiden speech on 17 June 2015.[3]

Dowden was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 Dissolution Honours List on 27 August 2015.[10]

He opposed Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum,[11] though he has subsequently supported it citing his "respect" for the verdict of the British people.[12]

Dowden has campaigned in Hertfordshire against development of the local Green Belt, including opposing Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's draft local plan.[13]

Dowden is a former officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and has twice chaired the APPG for British Jews. Dowden has said he feels a "cultural affinity" with the Jewish community – his constituency of Hertsmere has the largest Jewish population outside of London.[14]

Junior ministerial roles

In January 2018, Dowden was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Cabinet Office, as part of Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle.[15] In June 2019, during the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election Dowden, with Robert Jenrick and Rishi Sunak, all three junior ministers in May's government, wrote an article headlined "The Tories are in deep peril. Only Boris Johnson can save us" for The Times, endorsing former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for Prime Minister.[16]

Appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General by Johnson on 24 July 2019, Dowden was appointed a member of the Privy Council the next day.[17]

As Minister for the Cabinet Office, Dowden led the government's plans to reform public procurement, after the liquidation of contractor Carillion in 2018.[18]

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

On 13 February 2020, Dowden was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, succeeding Baroness Morgan of Cotes, who resigned from the cabinet.[19]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dowden introduced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts industry, which received praise from across the sector.[20]

In July 2020 Dowden announced that equipment provided by Chinese telecommunications company Huawei would be removed from the UK's 5G network by 2027.[21]

Dowden asked Netflix to add a "health warning" before episodes of the series The Crown, and warned against younger viewers taking fiction as fact. Netflix didn't make these changes until prior to the release of the series' fifth season.[22][23]

In August 2021, Dowden announced new multi-billion pound data partnerships between the UK, Australia and the Republic of Korea, billed as an opportunity to reduce global barriers to international trade after Brexit.[24] This presaged a series of reforms to the UK's data regime, with the aim of encouraging innovation and economic growth.[25]

Dowden also intervened in the national debate over the so-called "cancellation" of controversial historical figures, advocating a "retain and explain" approach from museums and heritage institutions, which would be "moreist" rather than "Maoist".[26] Dowden had previously said that "woke culture runs contrary to the great liberal traditions of Western democracies".[27]

As the minister responsible for the UK's national collections Dowden opposed the return of historic artefacts held in British museums and galleries that had been brought to Britain during the colonial period. In particular he argued that the Benin bronzes, most of which had been taken by force by British armed forces from Benin City in what is now Nigeria during a punitive raid in February 1897, should remain in Britain. In an interview with Channel 4 News in September 2021 about the bronzes held in the British Museum, he said "The collections of our great national institutions have been developed over many, many centuries, in many times in questionable circumstances. I think the question now is about what we do with these. I love the Benin bronzes, I've seen them many times throughout my life, and I think them being in the British Museum, which is a world repository of heritage, allows people to see it but that doesn't stop us from sharing it."[28]

In April 2021, Dowden led government opposition to the controversial European Super League proposals, describing the planned breakaway by six Premier League clubs as "appalling" and "tone-deaf".[29]

In 2023 it came to light in the British media that Dowden had led a secretive governmental unit during his time as Culture Secretary to counter what the British government saw as lockdown dissent and COVID-19 disinformation.[30]

Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party

On 15 September 2021, Johnson appointed Dowden as an unpaid Minister without Portfolio and Conservative Party Co-Chairman during a cabinet reshuffle.[31] In a speech at party headquarters following his appointment, Dowden told Conservative staff to "prepare for the next election".[32]

During his time as Co-Chairman, Dowden continued to be identified with the controversy over 'woke culture'. On 14 February 2022, Dowden gave a speech in the USA to The Heritage Foundation in which he criticised cancel culture, calling it a "painful woke psychodrama" which is sweeping the West and sapping its confidence, further saying that woke ideology is a "dangerous form of decadence". He had made similar remarks to the Conservative Party Conference in October 2021.[33][34][35]

In April 2022, the Conservative Government announced a consultation on a measure that would give residents an automatic right to vote on proposals by their local council to change the name of the street in which they live. Street name changes would have to be put to a vote by residents and the result of that vote would have to be taken into account by the council. Dowden said in a press release quoted by the Daily Telegraph: "Labour and Liberal Democrat councils across the country are hiking council tax while squandering hard-earned local taxpayers' money on these woke pet projects that nobody wants. These proposals will give local residents a democratic check against the lefty municipal militants trying to cancel war heroes like Churchill and Nelson."[36] As at August 2022 the consultation had not yet been published.

On 24 June 2022, Dowden resigned as Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio following the Conservative defeats at the Tiverton and Honiton by-election and Wakefield by-election, saying: "We cannot carry on with business as usual"[37] and "Somebody must take responsibility".[38]

July 2022 Conservative Party leadership election

Dowden declared his support for former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at the beginning of the July-September leadership contest, before the first round of voting had begun and the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would resign after a leadership election had taken place.[39] He also supported Sunak in the October 2022 leadership contest.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office

After Sunak became prime minister on 25 October 2022, Dowden was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, replacing Nadhim Zahawi,[40] and as Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, a new position, on 9 February 2023.[41][42] As of 2023, he is therefore responsible for overseeing the implementation of the UK Biological Security strategy.[43]

Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

On 21 April 2023, following Dominic Raab's resignation after a report over claims he bullied staff was given to Sunak, Dowden was appointed as the deputy prime minister.[44]

In his role as Deputy Prime Minister, Dowden has deputised four times for Sunak at Prime Minister's Questions, on 17 May, 7 June, 5 July and 12 July. Dowden also took charge of the 'day to day' business of government whilst Sunak took holiday in August 2023.[45]

The New Statesman named Dowden as the tenth most powerful right-wing figure of 2023, stating "there are few with as much influence on how the government operates". [46]

Personal life

Dowden is married to Blythe Dowden, a teacher, and they have two children.[47]

References

  1. ^ "The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP". GOV.UK. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Ministerial Appointments: February 2023". GOV.UK. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  3. ^ a b Watson, Chris; Fawcett, Mark (13 March 2018). "Members of the House of Commons since 1979" (PDF). House of Commons Library. p. 62. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  4. ^ "About Oliver Dowden". Oliverdowden.com. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b Oliphant, Victoria (8 October 2014). "'This is like coming home' – Oliver Dowden announced as Conservative candidate for Hertsmere". Borehamwood Times. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b Merrick, Jane (14 October 2012). "'Olive' in charge after No 10 shake-up". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  7. ^ "David Cameron's special adviser in US television gaffe". The Telegraph. 22 October 2012. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Hertsmere (Constituency) 2015 results - General election results - UK Parliament". electionresults.parliament.uk. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Meet the MPs: Profiling the Conservative 2015 intake | Dehavilland". www1.dehavilland.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Dissolution Honours 2015". GOV.UK (Press release). 27 August 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  11. ^ Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  12. ^ "'You campaigned for Remain!' Sky host skewers Tory MP talking tough on Brexit deal". Daily Express. 11 December 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  13. ^ Suslak, Anne (25 November 2016). "Hertsmere MP has 'deep concerns' about Welwyn Hatfield's Local Plan". Welwyn Hatfield Times.
  14. ^ Buchanan, Kirsty (28 February 2022). "This is the beginning of end for BDS, vows Tory chairman". Jewish Chronicle.
  15. ^ Flanagan, Chris (10 January 2018). "Potters Bar's MP 'delighted' after scooping promotion". Welwyn Hatfield Times.
  16. ^ Dowden, Oliver; Jenrick, Robert; Sunak, Rishi (5 June 2019). "The Tories are in deep peril. Only Boris Johnson can save us". The Times. London. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  17. ^ "ORDERS APPROVED AND BUSINESS TRANSACTED AT THE PRIVY COUNCIL HELD BY THE QUEEN AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE ON 25TH JULY 2019" (PDF). Privy Council Office. 2019.
  18. ^ Dowden, Oliver (11 July 2018). "How we will stop a Carillion-style collapse happening again". The Times.
  19. ^ "The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP". GOV.UK. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  20. ^ "Arts industry welcomes £1.57bn support package". BBC News. 7 July 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  21. ^ Sabbagh, Dan; Kuo, Lily (14 July 2020). "Huawei to be stripped of role in UK's 5G network by 2027, Dowden confirms". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  22. ^ "UK culture secretary to ask Netflix for 'health warning' that The Crown is fictional". The Guardian. 29 November 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  23. ^ "Netflix Adds Disclaimer to 'The Crown' Season 5 Following Backlash". hellogiggles.com. 24 October 2022. Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  24. ^ "UK unveils post-Brexit global data plans to boost growth, increase trade and improve healthcare". GOV.UK (Press release). 26 August 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2022.
  25. ^ "UK launches data reform to boost innovation, economic growth and protect the public". GOV.UK (Press release). 9 September 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  26. ^ Dowden, Oliver (15 May 2021). "We won't allow Britain's history to be cancelled". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  27. ^ Murphy, Joe (25 May 2021). "Oliver Dowden interview: 'Don't let Britain get carried away in this moment of wokery'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 23 May 2022.
  28. ^ Nzerem, Keme (10 September 2021). "Benin Bronzes 'properly reside' in British Museum, says culture secretary". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  29. ^ "Statement by Oliver Dowden on the European Super League". GOV.UK. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Oliver Dowden led secret unit to stamp out lockdown dissent during pandemic", The Daily Telegraph, 6 June 2023.
  31. ^ UK Prime Minister [@10DowningStreet] (15 September 2021). "The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden @OliverDowden has been appointed Minister without Portfolio, Cabinet Office" (Tweet). Retrieved 22 September 2021 – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Hope, Christopher; Diver, Tony (15 September 2021). "Exclusive: Get ready for a general election, says Oliver Dowden". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  33. ^ Mason, Rowena (14 February 2022). "Tory party chairman says 'painful woke psychodrama' weakening the west". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  34. ^ Dathan, Matt (15 February 2022). "Woke ideology emboldens the West's enemies, says Oliver Dowden". The Times. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  35. ^ Forrest, Adam (16 February 2022). "Decadent 'woke' ideology putting west in danger, claims Tory party chair". The Independent. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  36. ^ Malnick, Edward (9 April 2022). "Ditching 'offensive' street names to become harder under plans to give residents the vote". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  37. ^ Ford Rojas, John-Paul (24 June 2022). "'We cannot carry on with business as usual': Oliver Dowden quits as Tory chair after by-election mauling". Sky News. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  38. ^ Forrest, Adam; Woodcock, Andrew (24 June 2022). "Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden resigns after double by-election loss". The Independent. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  39. ^ Oliver Dowden [@OliverDowden] (8 July 2022). "Why I'm backing Rishi" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  40. ^ "Ministerial Appointments October - November 2022". Gov.UK. 24 November 2022. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  41. ^ "Ministerial Appointments: February 2023". Gov.UK. 7 March 2023.
  42. ^ "Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Secretary of State - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  43. ^ "UK Biological Security Strategy". GOV.UK. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  44. ^ Stacey, Kiran (21 April 2023). "Oliver Dowden named deputy PM and Alex Chalk justice secretary after Raab quits". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  45. ^ Dickson, Annabelle (3 August 2023). "Meet Oliver Dowden, the man running the UK while Rishi Sunak's away". Politico EU. Retrieved 11 August 2023.
  46. ^ Statesman, New (27 September 2023). "The New Statesman's right power list". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  47. ^ Sanderson, David (27 March 2021). "Oliver Dowden: 'Return the Marbles, then what . . . demand the Bayeux Tapestry?'". The Times.(subscription required)
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byJames Clappison Member of Parliamentfor Hertsmere 2015–present Incumbent Political offices Preceded byCaroline Nokes Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office 2018–2019 Succeeded byJohnny Mercer Preceded byDavid Lidington Minister for the Cabinet Office 2019–2020 Succeeded byMichael Gove Preceded byJesse Norman Paymaster General 2019–2020 Succeeded byPenny Mordaunt Preceded byThe Baroness Morgan of Cotes Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2020–2021 Succeeded byNadine Dorries Preceded byAmanda Milling Minister without Portfolio 2021–2022 Succeeded byAndrew Stephenson Preceded byNadhim Zahawi Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 2022–present Incumbent New office Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office 2023–present Preceded byDominic Raab Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 2023–present Party political offices Preceded byAmanda MillingBen Elliot Chairman of the Conservative PartyServing with Ben Elliot 2021–2022 Succeeded byAndrew Stephenson