A strong local voice with national and international experience

I've lived in this constituency for over 20 years and my wife, Alison, and I have brought our family up here. We're an established part of the community and we've found a whole range of ways in which we can contribute including as a councillor, as an organist and AmDram.

But I also bring a range of national and international experience which I've gathered from business and broadcasting. If you're going to make laws about some of the big issues of the day it helps to have had genuine experience and to be able to bring a practical eye to bear.

 

"[John Howell is ] the right choice for Henley and a strong local voice"  Mayor Boris Johnson

Pioneer of the end of communism in eastern Europe

It was hugely exciting to play an important part in the move of central and eastern Europe towards democracy and market economies. The collapse of the communist regimes of the area was one of the great achievements of the last half of the 20th century. It was a process which for me took many forms.  It gave me a chance to play a role in a unique historical moment promoting change, for example, to Mikhail Gorbachev and his team and to be a pioneer for change in other countries from Hungary and Poland to Kazakhstan. My book 'Understanding Eastern Europe: the context of change' was regarded as a seminal assessment of progress to civil society and market economies in the area in the mid-1990s.

I'm proud of the way I was also able to help UK plc take its proper place in this as a founder board member of the Know How Fund, the UK's then technical assistance programme for the region.

It was also a particular pleasure to lead UK business delegations twice to G7 meetings (under the Munster process) in central Europe and be part of the world of international trade diplomacy working, for example, with the late US Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown.

National recognition of this work came with the award of an OBE.

 

"What is required boils down to two areas: good pundits and good financial reporting explanations.  The profession has good pundits, experts and experienced TV performers. Take John Howell for example, He is Ernst & Young's eastern Europe expert. He is an exuberant character... He knows his stuff." The Times 1993

Business and broadcasting

I understand how business works too. As a former partner in Ernst & Young I've seen and advised some of our major companies and set up two SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) I understand both the pressures they face and the key role they have in providing jobs.

As a reporter and business presenter for BBC World Service Television I had the privilege of questioning and commenting on some of the major UK and international stories of the day. A series of programmes I made on Bangladesh helped show life as it is in that country and I was also one of the first western reporters to interview on camera the first democratically-elected President of Mongolia.

It was some of these skills I was able successfully to bring to bear as a cabinet member on the county council responsible for driving through better customer service and real efficiencies.

Strong analytical skills

In the light of this experience it would be wrong not also to acknowledge the strong analytical skills I have acquired and which were evidenced in my academic work as a prehistoric archaeologist.  Studying first under the iconic archaeologist, Stuart Piggott, this was advanced in my doctoral work in Oxford and the honorary post-doctoral reserach fellowship I was awarded at Liverpool. 

My book on the Neolitihic of Northern France was an early example of the power of what later came to be called landscape archaeology.

Bringing this together

In my role as your MP, these strands of my life have been drawn together. I have shown that it was not a case of either being a good constituency MP or a good MP in Westminster. It was a case of being both. The map page on this web site shows the vists I have made across what is a large constituency of over 260 square miles. 

My influential paper "Open Source Planning" has been the inspiration for the radical changes we have made to the planning system to end top-down targets and to allow local residents to help shape the areas in which they live.

I was described in the Guardian as "the architect of the government's planning reforms" and by Rt Hon Greg Clark MP as "the source of inspiration for many of the policies in the [Localism] Bill."

More details of my parliamentary activities can be found on my Westminster page. 


Potted CV

  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • MA (Hons) University of Edinburgh
  • D Phil St John's College Oxford
  • Hon Research Fellow University of Liverpool
  • Fellow Royal Geographical Society
  • former broadcaster BBC World Service Television
  • former partner Ernst & Young
  • former Inspector of Taxes

Organisations supported

I am very proud to support a wide range of local and other organisations:

  • Patron Friends of Henley CAB
  • Patron Victoria County History of Oxfordshire
  • Patron Oxfordshire Outdoor Learning Trust
  • Patron Festival Choir, Lewknor and Tetsworth
  • Patron Henley Youth Centre
  • Patron Goring & Streatley Sustainability Group
  • Trustee Berinsfield Voluntary Day Centre
  • Trustee Industry & Parliament Trust
  • Trustee Community Development Foundation (until 2010)
  • President Chinnor Musical Theatre
  • Vice-president Friends of the Ridgeway
  • Vice-President River and Rowing Museum, Henley
  • Director Employment Action Group (Berinsfield) Ltd.
  • Member University Court, Oxford Brookes
  • Honorary Member Sinodun Rotary Club
  • Speakers' Corner Trust

Publications

Archaeology

  • Book: Neolithic Northern France 1983
  • Numerous papers in professional journals

The international stage

  • Book: Understanding Eastern Europe: the context of change 1994/5
  • Numerous articles in professional and trade journals and magazines

Planning

  • Open Source Planning
  • Numerous articles in professional and trade journals

Politics

  • Local print media columns
  • Articles in relevant political journals