My speech as a new Mayor of London Borough of Lambeth at Inauguration Ceremony at Lambeth Town Hall

Colleagues, friends, thank you so much. 

May I start my speech by thanking my predecessor as Mayor of Lambeth, Councillor Christopher Wellbelove. 

 

He has shown us through his years of public service the true values of local democracy, and he has been a great guide and friend to me personally. I know I have huge shoes to fill – Christopher – thank you. 

I know too that the office of Mayor of Lambeth weighs heavily on my shoulders –the responsibility weighs down like these ceremonial gold chains of office. 

I know so many dedicated people have held this office before me, for 119 years since the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth. 

The very first Mayor in 1900 was a man called Mr White – and there were plenty of ‘men’ for the first few decades. Then the first woman in 1951, then the first Mayors reflecting the rich ethnic diversity of Lambeth, and in modern times pioneers like the much-missed Mark Bennett, taken from us too young, during his time in office. 

So as I accept the office you so kindly have bestowed upon me, I am aware that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. 

Lambeth is my home. 

But like many of our residents, I was not born here. I was born far away in Turkey, in the Kurdish region, and came to London to escape conflict and war. 

What makes Lambeth special is that it has always been a place where people can find their feet, make a new start, create a better life. 

When I came to London at the age of 14, I washed dishes and waited on tables. Now I am the Mayor of Lambeth.

London, and Lambeth, truly is the land of opportunity.

It was no surprise that Lambeth people voted to Remain in the EU by the second-highest margin in the referendum in 2016 (the highest being Gibraltar). 

We are internationalist by instinct – we love our local streets, estates and communities but we reach beyond them to our connections around the world. 

So I am proud to be the first Kurdish mayor of Lambeth, adding to that proud history of diversity and progress this borough represents.

I run a restaurant business in the shadow of the old County Hall, home of the London County Council and then the GLC, so I am reminded of the power of local democracy every day. 

And also how fragile it is. 

When Parliament was under terror attack in 2017, we threw open our restaurant doors to the police officers and ambulance crews and gave them free food and drink. 

Because that’s what we Londoners do, isn’t it? 

We help each other out. We offer shelter. We make a cup of tea! 

I also started a community newspaper called Lambeth Life, delivered to local homes, and each edition is a reminder of the wonderful people who live and work here.

As you may know, the name Lambeth comes from the Lamb Hythe, where lambs were penned before being taken across the River Thames to market. Lambeth initially developed along the marshy banks of the Thames and centred on the villages of Lambeth Marsh, where many of the Thames boatmen lived. Brixton, Streatham and the south of the borough were mainly countryside until as late as the 1890s when they developed rapidly with the coming of the railway lines.

Each of our town centres – Kennington, Stockwell, Clapham, Brixton, Norwood, Streatham and Vauxhall – has its own character and history. 

Together they make Lambeth what it is, the special sum of special parts.

Lambeth has given the world so much creativity, from William Blake to David Bowie, from Stella McCartney to Linton Kwesi Johnson, who came here from Jamaica in 1963 and went to Tulse Hill School. Like so many people from the Caribbean, he adds to our shared culture and national life. 

I promise to be the Mayor for the whole of Lambeth. I am proud to represent Bishop’s Ward in the northernmost part of the borough, but I am looking forward to working with colleagues in all parts of the borough – from Waterloo Station, to Clapham Common, from Brixton to West Norwood, to visiting schools, mosques, churches, community centres, clubs, and colleges, to meeting with the heroes of the Windrush generation, and the Lambeth residents from Madeira, from Ghana, from Ireland, from China, from India, from every part of the globe representing every faith, ethnicity and background. 

Lambeth people come from every corner but we are united many backgrounds, but one common future.

As Mayor, this will be my message – one community, one Lambeth, one London, one world. 

That’s why I have chosen refugees and immigrants as the theme for my year as mayor, and the Migration Museum and Lambeth Welcome Refugees as my chosen Mayor’s charities. 

The Migration Museum unearths the hidden stories and casts light on the experience of immigrants in each generation, ensuring their voices echo down the decades.

And Lambeth Welcomes Refugees helps people in here and now, with practical support and advocacy. 

In choosing these two organisations, I want to reflect the incredibly positive contribution refugees and immigrants make to our borough and our community. 

A Brixton boy once sang ‘we can be heroes’  - and I believe that is true. 

We can all be heroes in our communities, looking in on neighbours, guiding the next generation, supporting the most vulnerable, and standing up to bullies. 

The challenges we face are huge, but we are armed with common sense, community spirit and creative genius. 

As your Mayor, these are the values I seek to promulgate and inculcate and live by. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed but the London Borough of Lambeth has a motto in Latin  - ‘Spectemur agendo’.

I speak three languages, but Latin isn’t one of them.

It sounds like a spell in Harry Potter said my son Mirzan…

So I looked it up. It means ‘Let us be judged by our acts’. 

Let us be judged by our acts – what a perfect way to describe our ambition as public servants and champions of our communities – so as your Mayor, I say today, judge me for what I will do over the next year, by deeds, not words.

No event too small, no part of the borough too far – invite me and I will endeavour to come, ceremonial chains and all. 

Let me finish by thanking you all for your kindness 

Thank you to my wonderful family and friends, And to my council colleagues who have taught me so much,

To Jack Hopkins, Nathan Yeowall and Emily Wallace for encouraging me to stand for the council in the first place.

To my wife Raife Aytek, who will be serving alongside me as Mayoress. 

and to all of you for placing this trust in me – I won’t let you down.

Thank you.