WHEN news broke at the end of last week that Oliver Lewis – or Sonic as he is known by colleagues – had left his role as head of Number 10’s Union Unit after just two weeks, speculation followed on who would succeed him.

Eyes quickly turned to Henry Newman – unveiled the previous Friday as the Prime Minister’s new senior adviser – as the man being lined up to become Boris Johnson’s key official in charge of stopping Scottish independence.

It’s a remit with a growing challenge and sense of urgency for Johnson. With more than 20 polls recording majority support for independence, he’s made it clear he does not want to go down in history as the Prime Minister who presided over the break up of the UK.

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Some observers last week suggested Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds wanted the big job to go to Newman. As well as being a friend of Symonds, Newman is also close – and a former aide – to Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He has spoken publicly of his admiration for Gove saying he was proud to have worked for him and described him as “one of the most transformative environment secretaries we’ve ever had” back when Gove was the environment secretary.

A graduate of Christchurch College, Oxford, Newman is a former director of the eurosceptic think tank Open Europe, which was disbanded last year. He joined it in 2017 having previously worked as a special adviser to Gove in the Ministry of Justice and Francis Maude in the Cabinet Office.

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According to a short post on the Killarney Economic Conference, in Ireland, Newman has also taught politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and and studied at Harvard University and the London School of Economics.

He is a Tory member of Labour-run Camden Council and describes himself as a community activist and councillor for the Frognal and Fitzjohns Ward. He tweets considerably about problems with the bin collections in the area.

More biographical details are given on the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives’ website.

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“For the last ten years, my partner and I have lived in Hampstead. We love it. I’m from something of a mixed family: one grandmother was an Istanbul-born Greek, the other a German Jew who fled the Nazis eventually training as a doctor at the Royal Free,” he wrote.

“I’m passionate about protecting our local area and its unique heritage. I’m a keen runner and want to fight pollution and tackle gridlocked roads, such as Fitzjohn’s Avenue and Arkwright Road.

“I’ve been a persistent campaigner to restore weekly bin collections and address the rise in littering and fly-tipping. And as a victim of a moped snatching myself, I know how much we need more police.

“I’m the director of a think tank, and I previously worked in the Civil Service on government efficiency and prison reform. Before that, I taught politics and history at various universities.”

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A Leave voter, he spoke at a university debate to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal – an indication he is certainly not on the Conservatives’ ERG wing. It’s a view which could perhaps give him a slight advantage in winning over Remain voting Scots – compared to his predecessor Vote Leave veteran Lewis – but also puts him curiously at odds with his boss, who voted against May’s deal describing her Chequers plan on which it was based as a “suicide vest”.

Newman appears to have stronger connections than Lewis with Scottish Conservatives, tweeting his dismay when Kirstene Hair and Luke Graham – a former Union Unit head who left his role shortly after Johnson’s controversial lockdown visit to Scotland in January – lost their seats in the General Election in December 2019.

“Luke is a hero and a wonderful man. Very disappointing,” Newman wrote when Graham was ousted by the SNP’s John Nicolson.