New Forest East



By Greg Hurst in Westminster

Southern Daily Echo – 1 March 1996

Tories in the redrawn New Forest East seat picked one of the most colourful characters in politics as candidate in the General Election. Julian Lewis works for the Conservative Party, covertly joined Labour to fight Militant and once described himself as a liberal democrat.

And when he zooms around his new constituency canvassing support, he will not be in the regulation company car ... he turned that down in favour of his 750cc motorbike. He has been a gladiator for obscure right-wing pressure groups, scanned the BBC for political bias and tormented the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He also championed trade union reform and drove satirical magazine Scallywag off news-stands with a military-style legal battle.

Yet Dr Lewis, 44, a Cold War warrior with an obsessive hatred of totalitarianism, claims to have fallen in love with Lymington – a world away from his trench at the front line of Westminster politics. He visited the constituency a dozen times, before he was even selected for interview, and swears his heart flutters each time he turns onto the A337 towards Lyndhurst on the trip down from London.

He believes this, plus the stridency of his right-wing views, swayed the selection meeting. Asked about prospects of a single European currency replacing the Pound, he told Party members: "Over my dead body".

Dr Lewis, chatting in a Conservative Central Office canteen, explained: "I am a conviction politician."

Lengths he will go to were illustrated in 1976. Though a former Young Conservative, he rented a bedsit in Newham where Militants were trying to oust Labour MP Reg Prentice, joined the local Party and fought Left-wingers from within, in complex legal skirmishes. Dr Lewis termed himself a "liberal democrat" before that Party was formed: he meant libertarian committed to democracy.

The Conservative Party has since used him to root out extremists of its own, such as National Front agitators. "I have a mind that understands the way dictators' minds think," he explained.

In words which may return to haunt him, he claimed not to want a minister's job unless it involved defence or foreign affairs. "I have seen too many ministers who lead a fraught and frazzled life. The only incentive to get me to do that was if I was doing it in a subject that I felt burningly deeply about," he said.

As Tory deputy research director, he collates contentious causes advocated by each Opposition MP as election ammunition, using academic discipline: he has a doctorate in strategic studies from Oxford.

He is also a specialist on Liberal Democrat policies, which will not have gone unnoticed in the New Forest – scathingly, he rattled off [their] support for a single European superstate, legalising cannabis, prostitution and brothels, and contraceptives for girls aged 11.

Asked if this signalled a dirty local campaign ahead, he took offence. "The only dirt I have used is the dirt they have covered themselves with," Dr Lewis insisted.

His campaign should certainly be unconventional. He hired a helicopter to fly a friend, John Bercow, between clashing selection meetings