Redbridge Council leader bids to be Labour’s prospective MP for Ilford South

A council leader has thrown his hat into the ring in a bid to become Ilford South’s next MP.
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal has put himself forward to become the Labour Party’s prospective MP for Ilford South, after his colleague Mike Gapes renounced his party membership earlier this year over antisemitism concerns.
Cllr Athwal has led Redbridge Council’s Labour group since October 2011 and was first elected as a councillor in 2010.
He has represented Mayfield ward throughout his time in office.
Cllr Athwal said: “Ilford is my home. I’ve lived here for 48 years, I married my wife and sent my four children to local schools here. My family is here, my friends are here; I am never far from Ilford.
“I was born in the Punjab and moved to Redbridge with my parents when I was seven years old. We had nothing, my dad got work in a tin factory and I helped my mum at home sewing ties after school to help make ends meet.
“We were an ordinary immigrant family with a story familiar to many other Ilford residents and like many of my neighbours, moving here changed our lives for the better.
“Ilford has given me and my family everything we have. We moved here with very little and found a welcoming home, an excellent education, job opportunities for my parents and most importantly, we found a better future for our family.”
The council leader said he believed everyone deserves the same opportunities he was given as a child.
He added: “Every family should feel confident that their children will get the best education at their local school. Everyone of working age should feel optimistic about their future careers and we should all feel safe and welcome in the country we call home.
“That is why public service is so important to me, standing up for the vulnerable and making sure we all benefit from the best opportunities life has to offer.”
Cllr Athwal said becoming council leader at “the height of Tory cuts” was a huge challenge, but he has worked hard in the town hall and met with local people every day for more than five years.
He said: “Every step of the way I have fought for our community, protecting the most vulnerable and investing in public services where I can.
“I believe local people deserve an alternative to the near decade of austerity we have endured under successive Conservative governments. We deserve better than closing hospitals and overstretched schools. We deserve better than the politics of hate and division spread by the Tories.
“I fought the racists growing up here, we struggled as a family to find a place to live and worked our way out of poverty. Most people in Ilford recognise my story, because it is their story too – in many ways it is the story of Ilford. That’s why I think I’m the right person to be the next Labour MP for Ilford South.
“I have delivered as the leader of the council and now I am ready to step up and fight for my neighbours as the next MP for Ilford South.”

Alice Richardson

Local Democracy Reporter