How An NHS-Hating Londoner Became A Favourite Iowa Talkshow Host For Republicans
Simon Conway is a former UK tabloid journalist who became a drivetime host on Iowa's WHO radio station, giving him access to the people who want to be president.
There's one conservative talkshow host in middle America who the Republican candidates for president are desperate to talk to. And he's a London-born, anti-abortion, NHS-hating former News of the World journalist.
Simon Conway, who grew up in London's Willesden, is the unlikely British-accented presenter for the drivetime show on Iowa's WHO radio. Given his show's audience and Iowa's crucial role as the first state to hold caucuses on potential presidential candidates, the former Briton has had almost all Republicans who want to lead the country on his AM radio show.
"Most of the candidates will come on whenever we ask," Conway told BuzzFeed News. "There are some that are scared since when I ask a question, I expect a straight answer."
Conway started off on local newspapers as a teenager but from 18 was doing shifts on the Sunday Mirror and News of the World. There was also investigative reporting, going undercover to investigative "the awful Children of God sect" and "stuff for Panorama on the National Front".
But eventually he moved to America, spending years working in Orlando, Florida, as a stand-in radio host, broadcasting his barely altered London accent on stations across the US. In 2008 he took American citizenship, and his show's website explains how his "conservative outlook was forged in my native UK, where I experienced the considerable downsides of European-style socialism".
WHO, a major player in the Iowa talk radio market, then offered him a job, despite the former Brit having never been to the state.
"Media here in this country has real agenda," Conway explained. "My journalism was taught to me in England, where no one knew my politics and I treated everyone the same."
Favourite subjects include reproductive rights, defence spending, and nationalised healthcare. On the latter, he's not a fan of the UK's public system.
"I truly believed the NHS killed my dad," said Conway, who suggests the health service is biased against treating the elderly for the sake of keeping down costs. "He needed a minor procedure; he had to wait 18 months. It's policy: 'A man of 75, if we make him wait 18 months, statistically speaking he'll be dead and we won't spend any money.'"
"You can't criticise the NHS in Britain, which is ridiculous," Conway continued. "It has a lot of good aspects to it, but you already have a two-tier system of healthcare for the wealthy and healthcare for everyone else. You've got one doctor who estimated 130,000 people dying unnecessarily a year on the NHS: Why aren't politicians saying this publicly?"
"You cannot put the government in charge of your healthcare," he said. "You should not have a bureaucrat between you and your doctor."
Conway insists he loves Britain and its history but he's now taken US citizenship and described himself as a "proud and patriotic" American.
Referencing footballer John Terry's trial for racial abuse as evidence, Conway said his old country has lost it way: "Britain is a country that has change dramatically in my lifetime; it's a country where you don't even have freedom of speech any more. You think you can but you don't. The prime example of that is John Terry, the slow-moving criminal court case; he could have gone to jail."
"Racial insults are not something I approve of, but the reason freedom of speech is protected here, it is there to protect offensive speech," he said.
Conway said he's also a fan of British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, who's a regular guest on the show and who Conway thinks would thrive as a US politician: "He's a straight talker, there is such a thirst for straight talkers in this country. He would do very well."
But there's still a few things that the voice of Midwest conservatism wishes he could take from his old country: "I miss the curry. Friends. And the ability to go watch Chelsea play."