27 Apr, 2023 @ 17:15
2 mins read

British resident of Spain ‘makes history’ by becoming first UK national to run as a candidate in a Basque Country election

Richard Lewington Outside Oñati Town Hall

A BRITISH resident of Madrid is ‘making history’ by becoming the first UK national to ever run in an election in the northern Basque Country region. 

Richard Lewington, 41, is the current chairman of the Madrid branch of Conservatives Abroad, which is the international wing of the British Conservative Party. He will be standing as a candidate at the municipal elections in the town of Oñati, in Guipuzkoa province, for the conservative Popular Party (PP). 

Lewington spoke to the Olive Press to explain how the candidacy came around. 

‘The Conservatives have a very close relationship with the PP, they’re our sister party,’ he explained. ‘We share a lot of ideas together, we meet regularly and we discuss politics.’

As well as his association with the Conservative party, Lewington is also a member of the PP, and as such was sent a letter from the party requesting candidates for the electoral lists for each of the elections that will be contested across Spain on May 28 – both regional and local polls are due to be held that day.

Richard Lewington

‘Rather than being parachuted into a random town, I thought it would make sense to have something in common with the people I’m trying to represent,’ he explained. ‘I used to live and work in Oñati, and I have an idea of the town.’

Within seconds of sending his proposal to the PP in the Basque Country, he received a phone call from the mayoral candidate for Oñati, Ricardo Guisado Balanzategui, whom Lewington describes as a ‘huge anglophile, a huge Thatcherite’. ‘So we got on very well!’ he added.

Based on past elections, the chances of a big win for the PP when it comes to the 17 seats on offer in the Oñati municipality are slim. The party last won a seat there in 2007, and held it until 2011. It ran again in 2015 but failed to secure a single seat, and then didn’t run at all in 2019. 

Lewington (r) with mayoral candidate Ricardo Guisado Balanzategui (l).

What’s more, there is still majority support for nationalist parties in the Basque Country, such as the Basque Nationalist Left (PNV) and EH Bildu. At the municipal elections in 2019, the PNV took 36% of the vote across the region, and EH Bildu 25%. The PP only managed 6%. 

At the 2019 local elections in Oñati, EH Bildu won an absolute majority with 10 seats, while the PNV took the remaining seven.

But the odds are not putting Lewington off. “This year it’s interesting, with the polling pointing to a blue wave,’ he said, in reference to the colours of the PP. 

‘It is a long shot, but given the appetite for the PP right now, I’m not as sceptical as I was at the beginning,’ he added.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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