Interview: David Newman

The former campaign director for Richmond Park & Twickenham Conservatives tells Ben Cook how he has embraced his new voluntary sector role

David Newman
David Newman

Just over a year ago, David Newman was celebrating the culmination of a successful campaign to elect Zac Goldsmith as the Conservative MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston.

Newman was Goldsmith's agent and a campaigns director at the local Conservative Party. However, in his latest role, as head of public affairs at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, he now finds himself trying to influence politicians rather than promote them.

His new aim is to "push Type 1 diabetes up the political agenda" and to secure more funding for research into the condition, which can be fatal if not treated with insulin. Type 1 diabetes affects about 350,000 people in the UK, of which 20,000 are children.

"I've always been interested in charity campaigning - but it's not something I've been able to devote much time to," Newman says. "Third sector organisations, like political parties, are passionate about the causes they believe in.

"Charity campaigning is about stakeholder engagement, while political campaigning is about engaging with your constituency."

However, he says there are other differences between the two spheres. "Unlike political party campaigning, as a charity campaigner you have no guaranteed platform - you have to work to make space," he says. "We'll be working with government departments to promote Type 1," he says. "However, budget constraints are a big challenge."

If the JDRF could secure more funding for research, Newman argues, it would actually save the government money. "Less hospitalisation by finding a cure will save money in the long run," he says. But he acknowledges that the charity has a fight on its hands to ensure that coalition spending cuts do not result in Type 1 diabetes research being pushed back down the political agenda.

Newman refuses to be drawn on whether having a coalition government has made it more or less difficult for charities to campaign. "The JDRF will work with whoever is in parliament," he says. "We're trying to fit in with the overarching agenda of the government and understand its policy brief."

Part of meeting this challenge to remain in the public eye, Newman says, is making sure the charity keeps a high profile, particularly through social media. "You have to have face-to-face meetings, but as digital media evolves you have to keep abreast of change and adapt campaign techniques."

CV:

2011: Head of public affairs, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
2008: Group campaign director, Richmond Park & Twickenham Conservatives
2006: Political agent, Hampstead and Kilburn Conservative Association
2005: Trainee accountant, Riverside Financial Services

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