Oliver James Dowden CBE (born 1 August 1978) is a British politician serving as Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party alongside Ben Elliot since 2021. He also serves as Minister without Portfolio. He previously served as Minister for the Cabinet Office from 2019 to 2020 and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2020 to 2021. He has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Hertsmere since 2015.
Early life and career
Dowden was born on 1 August 1978. He grew up in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, being educated at Parmiter's School, a partially selective state comprehensive school in Garston, Watford. He attests to having received an "excellent state education", before going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read law.
Dowden joined the Conservative Research Department in 2004, moving to PR company Hill & Knowlton in 2007, before returning to the Conservative Party in 2009.
He then worked as a special adviser and David Cameron's deputy chief of staff, where he said most of his time was spent on "day-to-day crisis management". Dowden was regarded as having expertise in the attacking form of political communications, leading to comparisons with Labour's Alastair Campbell.
Member of UK Parliament
Dowden was elected MP for Hertsmere in the 2015 general election, with a majority of 18,461 votes. While standing, among the policy priorities he highlighted in his campaign were improving transport infrastructure, preserving green belt land and improving education. He made his maiden speech on 17 June 2015.
Dowden was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 Dissolution Honours List on 27 August 2015.
He opposed Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum, though he has subsequently supported it citing his "respect" for the verdict of the British people.
Dowden is a former officer of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and has twice chaired the APPG for British Jews. Dowden has claimed a "cultural affinity" with the Jewish community- his constituency of Hertsmere has the largest Jewish population outside of London.
Junior ministerial roles
In January 2018, Dowden was promoted to parliamentary secretary to the Cabinet Office, as part of Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle.
Appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General by incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24 July 2019, Dowden was appointed a member of the Privy Council the next day.
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.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dowden introduced a £1.57 billion support package for the arts industry, which received praise from across the sector.
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".
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'.
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. In a speech at party headquarters following his appointment, Dowden told Conservative staff to "prepare for the next election".
On 14 February 2022, Dowden gave a speech in 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.
Dowden is married and has two children.[