Leila Roy: 'A person of compassion, empathy, loyalty and civic solidarity'

Leila Roy in 2015

Leila Roy in 2015 - Credit: Polly Hancock

Tributes were paid from across the political spectrum to former councillor Leila Roy on Monday.

At a meeting of Camden Council, members spoke about the contribution to the community of Ms Roy, who died unexpectedly on Friday (February 26), aged 39.

Former leader of the Conservative group Cllr Giovani Spinella told the meeting how Ms Roy, already a community activist, joined the party in 2012.

Despite having previously been a Labour member and worked with the Liberal Democrats, she began talking to Cllr Spinella and he found she was a "much more natural Conservative than people, herself included, realised". She went on to be elected in the Belsize ward in 2014. 

“Leila was a constant campaigner," he said. "She would never stop, she would never be quiet, she would never surrender.

“She was a child of privilege. Her father was a diplomat and actually royalty from the Republic of Benin. I don’t know how ‘republic’ and ‘royalty’ coincide but that was the case. Her education had been some of the best education in the world, and she could have chosen a very easy life but she had refused that."

Instead she lived on estates in Camden and became a tireless activist and campaigner.

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“She was a person of compassion, of empathy, of fierce loyalty, of civic solidarity, although she was always sceptical of pauperism as a virtue," said Cllr Spinella.

“She was impossible to ignore. She was loud, boisterous, and would strike a conversation with anyone – total strangers telling their life stories five minutes after they met her. She would never take 'no' for an answer. She would never take any BS from any of her friends, and had no compunction at kicking them in the rear end – and I’m not talking figuratively, I’m talking literally. I have bruises to prove it!"

She went on to work for International Democracy Foundation, promoting democracy in Africa, and her community work continued, including supporting efforts to help children catch up on education lost due to Covid.

He added: “Her one true love was her son, Anton, and for him she would do anything.”

A minute's applause was held during the meeting and Cllr Spinella said: “I’m glad that today, instead of a minute of silence, we’re going to be loud, we’re going to make noise, because life is noise, life is sound, and Leila was so full of life and so full of noise and so full of sound, and it’s good that we celebrate her that way. Not silence – she was never silent a minute in her life.”