City Hall election: “I’ve been doing something in Barnet and Camden every day”

Conservative candidate Julie Redmond talks to Barnet Post about why she’s in politics and engaging with communities

Julie Redmond, the Conservative candidate for the 2024 London Assembly elections in Barnet and Camden
Julie Redmond, the Conservative candidate for Barnet and Camden – (Credit- Conservative Party)

Conservative London Assembly candidate Julie Redmond hasn’t been a politician for very long. She was working as a nurse and volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic when another politician suggested the idea. 

Redmond, who is originally from Ireland and came to London over 20 years ago, explains: “I was helping with a lot of different community initiatives, getting volunteers to help with people on their own and I remember speaking to my local MP at the time Nickie Aiken and she said: ‘Julie, you’re doing so much in  the community, you’d be fantastic as a local councillor’ “

She attempted to become a councillor in Westminster in 2022 but was foiled by Labour’s success – and was selected as the Conservative candidate for the Barnet and Camden assembly seat last year. 

Since then, she tells Barnet Post: “I’ve been doing something in Barnet and Camden every day. I’ve been door knocking, I’ve been visiting charities. I’ve really immersed myself in the community. 

“I thought to myself, even though you’re just a candidate you can still make an impact, you can still highlight issues that residents feel deeply about.”

As a nurse with a strong engagement in community activities, she might not seem like everyone’s idea of a typical Conservative. I ask why she chose the party. She laughs:  “I get asked that a lot. Actually people are in shock: they’re like [you’re a nurse], you’re Irish and you’re Conservative?”

The answer is that: “I had to choose a party that aligned with who I would normally vote for if I was still living in Ireland, which is Fine Gael.”

When Barnet Post asks Redmond about the key issues she’ll be focusing on in the campaign, the first one she identifies is housing: “We need to look at maintaining the council housing we have and also look at new areas to build more family homes, but we have to be very careful not to build on our green spaces and also to have a balance.”

While additional housing is a priority, she feels that current approaches to providing it are not the right ones: “There’s been so much conflict about overdevelopment in Barnet. I’ve never seen an area in London where so much overdevelopment is cropping up all the time. 

“And as much as we do need more housing we need to be really careful not to build something that we can’t handle and that we don’t have the infrastructure for. 

In terms of one particularly controversial development originally supported by Barnet’s outgoing Conservative administration – in the sense that they created the local plan paved the way for it to happen – she joins other local Conservatives who now oppose it: “I’ve campaigned with our Conservatives against [the Broadwalk Centre development in] Edgware and I believe it’s the right thing to do. I just can’t imagine how that amount of flats in that area will look. 

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Another priority area is police and crime. Redmond feels that many current problems are due to lack of support for vulnerable young people. She says: “A lot of the crime to do with young people is drug related, some of it is mental illness and there is a gap between young teenagers – whether they’re leaving hospitals or they’re leaving prison or they’re leaving their homes or school – and getting some kind of support. 

“I don’t think there’s enough community youth services. I went to visit Unitas in Colindale and I was blown away by the amazing facilities there. But we need more of these community hubs for young people.” 

When it comes to transport, Redmond identifies a recurring local issue: “Anytime I come to Barnet, the big thing on the doorstep is potholes. And I don’t understand why there’s not enough money to just fill them in.”

And highlights concerns about a potential upcoming problem: “I had a public meeting with Colindale residents about [the station upgrade] because everyone’s really for the station improvements. It will be amazing once done but the worry is not having anything in place for residents. They’re worried about the fact that there won’t be enough buses in place.”

While she may have worked hard to engage with local communities, given the current levels of support for the Conservative Party nationally, Redmond faces a big challenge in her bid to unseat Labour’s Anne Clarke, Barnet Post asks how confident she is of success:

She says that the wider picture means that: “It’s been very tough. Some days I feel like I’m two steps ahead and then other days I’m six steps back. You’re wondering what’s going to come next.” 

But Redmond says she’s “hoping that people will perhaps give me a chance” and with the prospect of the re-election of a Labour mayor alongside Barnet’s Labour council leaving a gap for alternative perspectives: “Maybe someone that isn’t a career politician will be the right person to fill that gap.”

Julie Redmond is one of six candidates for the Barnet and Camden constituency along with current assembly member Anne Clarke for Labour, Reform UK’s Raj Forhad, Green Kate TokleyLib Dem Scott Emery and Socialist (GB) Bill Martin. 

Update: this article was updated on 26th April to correct the possible implication that the previous Barnet Council administration had selected the developer for The Broadwalk Centre scheme, as opposed to setting the planning framework under which the scheme is being taken forward.

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