Home   Haverhill   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Nick Timothy, the Conservatives’ West Suffolk prospective parliamentary candidate, on his Downing Street experience, Matt Hancock and the issues facing Newmarket, Haverhill, Brandon and Mildenhall areas

The former chief of staff of Theresa May who has been selected by the Conservatives to fight for the West Suffolk seat at the next General Election has pledged to listen and work with communities to help realise their hopes and ambitions.

Nick Timothy, a key adviser to the former Prime Minister, was confirmed as the Tory prospective parliamentary candidate for former health secretary Matt Hancock’s constituency on Sunday night.

Mr Hancock, who had the Tory whip removed in November when he signed up for ITV reality programme I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!, is not standing at the next election.

Nick Timothy has been adopted as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the West Suffolk constituency. Pictures: Mark Westley
Nick Timothy has been adopted as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the West Suffolk constituency. Pictures: Mark Westley

In a wide-ranging interview with SuffolkNews, Mr Timothy, who has family links to the constituency, said his selection was a chance to ‘draw a line’ after the I’m A Celeb furore and outlined why he thought his experience at the heart of Westminster and background growing up in a working class family made him the best candidate for the job.

The 43-year-old said: “I have a proven track record of being able to listen and then give people a voice in Westminster and Whitehall, which means we can get things changed in people’s interests.

“I want to work with people locally to try to achieve for the people of West Suffolk. I’m introducing myself to people here and I’m here to listen and my door will be open – I want to hear from people and work with them to make this (constituency) the best it can possibly be.”

Nick Timothy and Rachel Hood, chair of the West Suffolk Conservative Association
Nick Timothy and Rachel Hood, chair of the West Suffolk Conservative Association

Local connections

West Suffolk is a place Mr Timothy has known his whole life.

His parents live in Hundon and he had family who lived in and around Newmarket through most of his childhood.

His aunt married a US fighter pilot based at Mildenhall.

“I spent a lot of time here and I’ve got memories of sitting watching horses at the Gallops,” he said.

“I’ve got a long-standing connection with the place and it was the only one I applied for because I think it’s really important that if you’re going to be a candidate and hopefully an MP, you’ve got to have a connection to the place and care about it.”

Mr Timothy, who is married and has a daughter and two step-daughters as well as an Irish Setter dog, tried to become a candidate at the last election representing Meriden, where he also had a personal connection.

His pitch to the West Suffolk Conservative Association, he said, was his connections and love for the area.

“There’s a reason I want to be here but knowing and loving West Suffolk isn’t enough. These are really serious times and you need somebody who has the ability to listen and give local people the voice they need to be heard in Westminster and in Whitehall. Having worked at the top of Government, I know I’m capable of doing that for people.”

His experience

Mr Timothy is best known for his close working relationship with former Prime Minister Theresa May, first in the Home Office and as her joint chief of staff when she occupied 10 Downing Street.

He stepped down from the role when the Conservatives lost their majority at the 2017 snap General Election, with the manifesto, which he co-authored, widely blamed for the result.

“There’s a lot more to me than the experience in Government,” he said.

Born in Birmingham, both his parents left school at 15 and his dad worked in manufacturing and rose through the ranks to become responsible for head of international sales for Allied Steel and Wire, while his mum worked for a school in a deprived community starting as a lab technician and eventually was in charge of the pastoral side to help keep children in mainstream education.

“I grew up in a completely normal working class family. I got to go to a great school which meant I became the first person in my family to go to university. I’m very much born into the real world and have remained in the real world,” he said.

“The reason I wanted to work in politics and government is that I understood the power of politics to change people’s lives for the better because of my own story as I grew up.

“That continues to be the drive and motivation really because I know political decisions for people of reasonably modest means have great significance.

“This is why I care and the experience in government – I spent five years helping to run the Home Office and worked in Downing Street between 2016 and 2017 – means I understand how these things work but also I’ve been in situations where I have made the argument inside Government or looked at a particular problem and made that change happen. It means I know I’m able to do that if I’m elected.”

He said his politics were about community and commitment, starting with family and then thinking about your neighbours and doing what you can for others.

For those who Google Mr Timothy’s time at 10 Downing Street, many of the headlines focus on his role in the outcome of the 2017 General Election and its manifesto, which included a controversial plan to tackle social care costs and led to a campaign u-turn.

Mr Timothy was dubbed ‘Rasputin’ in the press due to his apparent influence over Theresa May.

Asked what he learnt from that time and how it would shape a more public-facing political career, he said it was an incredibly painful period and lots of things went wrong with the campaign.

“I think when you make a mistake it makes you a better person and makes you better at what you do because you learn from it,” he said.

“I’ve proved to myself more than anything that I’m a resilient person who will bounce back.”

He said a thick skin was needed in public service.

The constituency

Describing West Suffolk as a varied constituency with different interests, Mr Timothy said his aim was to protect and enhance what made it a really wonderful place to live and to create more employment opportunities as well as the chance of greater prosperity in the future.

“For places like Brandon and Mildenhall, there’s the tech corridor between Cambridge and Norwich and Haverhill’s proximity to Cambridge also gives it interesting opportunities,” he said.

“I visited the EpiCentre a few months ago and I would like to see more of that kind of thing.”

Haverhill needs better transport connections to Cambridge, he said.

While there has been a lot of housebuilding there, the infrastructure that was promised has been delayed and he said he did not think it was right for ‘developers to get away with that kind of thing’.

“We need a plan to bring together transport, skills and education and incentives for entrepreneurs and employers spilling out of Cambridge to come to Haverhill and potentially come to places like Mildenhall and Brandon as well,” he said.

Newmarket High Street. Picture: Mark Westley
Newmarket High Street. Picture: Mark Westley

Newmarket was a unique and magical place, he said, and while nothing ever stayed exactly the same, care needed to be taken with the risk of over-development.

“If you over-develop then you end up with loads more traffic, the horses risk being taken away and we can’t have Newmarket just being turned into another Epsom.You will lose what makes it special,” he said.

“I think it’s important we recognise racing is a huge part of Newmarket’s identity and a great British success story we should celebrate.

“There obviously are challenges, there are questions about the high street, there are specific things about access to certain services. I know the recycling centre is still not open and there’s a lot of demand for that.”

In Brandon, he said it seemed crazy the town was unable to have houses built because of the Stone Curlew population and he was keen to try to unpick that problem.

“I do think there is a broader problem with Natural England and the way some of these quangos hold very significant and often unaccountable power,” he said.

He backed the bases in Mildenhall and was aware of traffic problems in both towns.

“There’s risks and opportunity with the economic development of Cambridge and we need to minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities and I would like to work with people to make sure opportunities in places like Mildenhall and Brandon are taken,” he said.

In terms of the villages, he said he knew of challenges such as lorries travelling through neighbourhoods, speed limits and bank closures.

Matt Hancock. Picture: Mark Westley
Matt Hancock. Picture: Mark Westley

Matt Hancock

Mr Hancock won the seat in 2019 with a 23,000 vote majority but his decision to compete on I’m A Celebrity! caused a storm among his constituency association and voters.

Is Mr Timothy the type of person who would star on the TV talent show?

He laughed: “My wife likes to say I don’t even like anchovies so I don’t know how I would cope with what they feed you on I’m a Celebrity!”

Mr Timothy added: “I think this is an opportunity to draw a line under things with my selection and what I can do is get out and about in the constituency, make myself known, introduce myself to people and let them see my values and what I believe in and let me listen.

“I’m very much in listening mode so I can work with people locally, with the councils, with people in the different communities to come up with a plan to try to address their problems and try to realise their hopes and ambitions and then hopefully I can be judged on that basis.”

Asked whether this was still a safe seat for the Conservatives, he said: “I don’t think there is any such thing as a safe seat.

“There are countless examples in politics where MPs have treated a constituency in that way and taken people for granted and ended up discovering their seat wasn’t so safe after all.

“You should never ever take people for granted. The whole point of politics and public service is to serve people.”