Today, I am announcing that I am putting myself forward to be the next Labour candidate in Vauxhall at the coming election, and if successful, to become the next Labour MP.
I know some local members wanted the selection to be from an all-women shortlist. Had the Labour national executive committee (NEC) decided to let us select our parliamentary candidate from an all-women shortlist, naturally I would have supported their decision. However, the NEC has decided to not go down that route in Vauxhall.
Since the NEC decision, I have been humbled that so many local members, supporters, activists, trade unionists, family and friends have asked me to put my name forward to be our Labour candidate. I have growing support from across our movement, from all wings. I believe I can bring unity and purpose to our local campaign.
I would like to thank Kate Hoey for her years of public service. It is no secret that I disagree with her on some big issues, like fox hunting, which I consider barbaric and cruel, and on Brexit, which I judge to be a disaster for us socially and economically. However, she has worked hard for her constituents since 1989, and I wish her well.
No matter what, Brexit will be a big issue at the coming election, and as a Labour councillor and as Mayor of Lambeth I have made it clear that I oppose a Brexit which harms local jobs and business, undermines workers’ rights, and puts our NHS up for sale. Eight out of ten people in Lambeth voted Remain in 2016. Labour members oppose Brexit. We need a Labour candidate who robustly represents the community’s views and will strive to repair the damage wrought by the Tory mishandling of the Brexit crisis.
But we mustn’t allow Brexit to drown out other pressing issues. I was a Labour parliamentary candidate in Cities of London and Westminster at the 2017 General Election, and I know how popular Labour’s policies are to end austerity, to build more affordable homes, to create a National Education Service, to rescue the NHS and social care, to put more police on the streets and estates and tackle knife crime, to end the exploitation and insecurity of the so-called gig economy, and to create a new, just economy with fair shares for all. I delivered a swing to Labour in my seat, turning a safe Tory seat into a marginal.
The next Labour manifesto will show how we end poverty, privatisation and tax avoidance, and most of all, how we build a new green deal to tackle climate change. These are the issues I want to campaign on – showing that radical change is possible, and that Boris Johnson is not the answer to Vauxhall’s problems.
I believe we need an MP to reflect the diversity that we celebrate and love in Vauxhall. In my roles as a community activist and organiser, I have spent more than 20 years helping to bring different groups together and am continuing that work now as the Mayor of Lambeth.
An important part of our diversity is the LGBTQ+ community in Vauxhall. I will work tirelessly with local businesses, groups and campaigners to uphold human rights and tackle homophobia and transphobia.
I am proud to call Vauxhall my home. Like many people in Vauxhall, I was not born here – I chose to live here. I arrived as a Kurdish refugee. And like most refugees, I came here for a better life, away from war and conflict. When I arrived, I got down to work, waiting on tables and washing up, while getting an education and laying roots in the community.
Today, I employ over 50 people in my restaurants and other enterprises. I run a community newspaper, Lambeth Life, and several not-for-profit groups including the Centre for Turkey Studies (Ceftus), Centre for Kurdish Progress, SME4Labour, Labour campaign for gambling reform, and the British Kebab Awards, all based in Vauxhall. I recently set up a new community cafe in Vauxhall called With Love, which provides free food and drink for homeless people and creates jobs paying the London Living Wage.
As a teenager, I met a man who came to my college and encouraged me to stand up and speak out. Today, that man is the Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn. I joined my trade union, and the Labour Party, believing these are the best expression of my values of social justice, solidarity and internationalism.
Ever since, I have campaigned and fought for justice, raised funds for good causes like the Durham Miners’ Gala, and Labour candidates, rolled up my sleeves and hit the doorsteps. I am proud to be a Labour councillor, one of the few in the UK from a Kurdish background. And I am proud to be Mayor of Lambeth, supporting refugees and vulnerable groups throughout the borough through my mayor’s charities. As an activist in Vauxhall, I have served as fundraising officer, raising thousands of pounds for local campaigning, and recruiting new party members.
Like most people in Vauxhall, I live in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament across the river. But for me, the building was never just a tourist attraction. It stands as a mighty symbol of the power of our democracy, of the struggle to put the vote in the hands of working people. On my travels I have seen plenty of places where that struggle has yet to be won, and we should always remember how lucky we are to have the vote.
When Parliament came under attack in March 2017, I threw open the doors of my restaurants for the ambulance crews and police officers for free food and drink. When our democracy is attacked, we all need to do what we can to stand together. I was delighted to receive a special commendation from the Metropolitan Police.
Now, I am asking for support to become the next Labour MP for Vauxhall. I believe we can create something really special here, run a brilliant campaign, and get the first-ever Labour MP from a Kurdish background. Most of all, the next election gives us the best chance in nearly a decade to kick out the Tories and get Labour into office. I hope to help make that happen.
Ibrahim Dogus is Mayor of Lambeth