One to One

Keith Vaz Wednesday 06th September 2023 07:45 EDT

Mehmood Mirza was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where he completed his graduation. In 1994 he moved to the UK. Those first few years were quite tough, his initial job was of a waiter, with long hours and low pay. Eventually with some financial help from his father, he got involved in property business and that provided him with his living.  He also enrolled at the University of East London, studied Law, and then joined Farani and Tayor as a legal adviser.

Mehmood mostly handles pro bono, Immigration and Asylum cases and said that the hopelessness and suffering among his clients were eye opener for him. Since he has always been interested in people and politics, when a friend suggested he should join the local branch of Labour Party, he dived in with both hands. But eventually resigned from the Labour Party, stood as an independent candidate and shocked the political establishment in Newham by winning a by-election in Boleyn ward in July of this year.         

1)      Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?

 I love living in London, it’s full of energy and opportunities. It’s such a diverse and vibrant city. I don’t think there is a city in the world that witnesses so many different languages, culture, religion, and races co existing in absolute harmony. Obviously, there are people with strange views, but thankfully they are only a tiny minority. Having said that, I still miss my Rawalpindi with its bazars and shops that stayed open till late into the night.             

2)      What are your proudest achievements?

 My proudest achievement when I stood in the by-election for Councillor’s position and beat Labour candidate decisively. It was like a contest between David and Goliath. Labour candidate had the full support of the local as well as the region, they brought out all the big guns there would be hordes of councillors knocking on doors, doing double shifts. (64 Labour councillors in Newham out of a total of 66). And there I was on my own and occasionally a friend or two would come along. This win gave me the most satisfaction. 

3)       What inspires you?

 I take inspiration from Jeremy Corbyn’s philosophy of helping the poor and needy in the society. When Covid-19 arrived and lots of people lost their jobs, especially overseas students from Indian subcontinent who were relying on part time jobs that were no longer there. Some feared starvation coming on. I requested the local mosque management and I was given permission to use their premises. So, I started a food bank back in 2020 and still continue to this day. Every Saturday we serve 300 to 400 people. It is the largest food bank in Newham. We are not intrusive, and ask no questions, if people join the queue we serve, I have a fantastic team of volunteers.                                                                                                                                                   

4)      What has been biggest obstacle in your career?                                                

I am not fazed by obstacles and setbacks. One just must go round the obstacles and learn from setbacks. I have always been positive in my approach to life. I believe if you work hard and are willing to ask for help when you need it, you can achieve your goals.    

5)      Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?                                                         

Again, I have to say Jeremy Corbyn has been the most influential in my political career. He is honest, straight forward, sincere and he brought hope to ordinary people. People believed in him. He could inspire and during the time of his leadership, hundreds of thousands of young people joined the Labour Party.                                                           

6)      What is the best aspect about your current role?

 I would say best aspect of my current role is to provide an independent voice at the Council meetings. For far too long Labour had taken residents of Newham for granted. I want to change that. I want to hold Labour to account, I want to raise residents’ issues that affect them and demand action, I don’t have to toe any line, or keep quiet, because whip’s office says so. I am confident that I will make a difference and for the better.       

7)      And the worst? 

I wish there were more independent councillors, but watch this space. I am working on it. I am constantly getting members of the public contacting me, and wanting to come on board.                          

8)      What are your long-term goals?

My long-term goals are to make council take notice of residents’ views, not run phoney consultation exercises. There have been many occasions where developments have taken place, without consultations with those affected, and yet council will pretend all boxes have been ticked. 

9)      If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?                                                

If I were Prime Minister, I would stop telling lies and start telling the truth. I would make the tax system fair. Plug all the tax loopholes. Discontinue the practice of offshore tax havens. I would order a judicial enquiry to look into all the cronyism that went on during Covid-19 and continues till today. 

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter