LONDON: A British-Pakistani woman has made history after becoming the first directly elected mayor of a London borough.
Rokhsana Fiaz, who has been a councillor for Custom House in East London since 2014 won securing 53,214 votes — 73.4 per cent. Around 35.84 per cent of Newham turned out to vote for the council elections on May 3. Elections in 150 English councils were held on the same day.
Rokhsana will replace Sir Robin Wales, who was deselected after 16 years in the post. At his last election, Sir Wales had received 61 per cent of the votes. Rokhsana will be incharge of nearly £250 million annual budget for Newham, which is known as one of the most diverse boroughs in western Europe and also one of the most deprived, not only in Britain but in western Europe. Most of the residents of the borough trace their roots back to Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and African countries. Fanour Green Street is also located in the same borough.
Rokhsana told Geo News that her victory showed importance of hard work and ethics. She said that it took her a long political struggle to be where she was today.
She said: “Wow. It’s mind-blowing. It says to me two things about Newham — one, the amount of trust and hope they have in the Labour Party, and the fact that we have been accelerating over the last couple of years since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
“Eight years of devastation by Tory cuts is showing with wins like this. I think it reflects the confidence of the people in Labour’s ability to lead a council in the face of these cuts.”
Rokhsana said, “I reflect the hopes and aspirations of other ethnic minorities. I worked twice as hard as my counterparts to prove that I have talent and ability to occupy this role. The fact that I am the first directly elected ethnic minority mayor is significant. It’s also significant that I am the first directly elected woman of colour in the whole of country. It shows to young people that if you work hard and play smart, play by the rules then you can go to the top.”
Rokhsana’s parents were present in Olympics stadium in East London, where results of their daughter becoming the executive mayor of Newham were announced to huge applause. They told Geo News that they stood there as proud parents.
Her father said: “I came from Lahore and worked menial jobs in London. Times were very tough for us as a family, but I always believed in working hard and giving back to the society. My daughter joined Labour Party at the age of 16 and we as parents encouraged her. We always told our children to be what they want to be in their lives. I am a proud father that my daughter has excelled.”
Rokhsana’s mother said that she always ensured that her children focus on getting education. “I have always trusted my daughters. They have worked hard and made their own independent decisions. I am a proud mother today. I am so happy that I can’t describe in words. My daughter’s election is a proof that hard work always pays off. I will advise all Pakistani parents to help their children with education. That’s the most important thing in life.”
Nearly 500 British-Pakistanis contested for the UK local government elections. They contested for more than 4,400 seats in around 150 different councils. It included each ward in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Leeds, as well as all 32 London boroughs.