Former Camden Council leader chooses women's safety charity for second mayoral year

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE has been elected Labour mayor for Camden for the second time

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE has been elected Labour mayor for Camden for the second time - Credit: Cllr Nasim Ali OBE

A former leader of Camden Council is stepping into the breach to become mayor for a second time.

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE was the first Bangladeshi and Muslim Mayor in Camden 2003/2004 and was also the youngest in the country, aged just 34.

This year, Lorna Russell was due to succeed outgoing mayor Cllr Sabrina Francis but having crossed the floor from Labour to Green the Green Party last year, she failed to get re-elected earlier this month.

Next week, Cllr Ali will instead take up the post once again.

"Doing it for the second time you know what's coming. You know what you have to do and hopefully you do it better," he said.

Cllr Nasim Ali in full mayor regalia during his first term in 2002/2003

Cllr Nasim Ali in full mayor regalia during his first term in 2002/2003 - Credit: Cllr Nasim Ali

He remembers collecting newspaper clippings from all his community engagements.

"I'm hoping to do the same and highlight all the wonders of Camden and fantastic organisations we have – the voluntary community sector, the fantastic people, institutions, different partners and make people happy," he said.

"Everyone's happy to see you as mayor. As leader, it's a different expectation, they want things from you." 

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Cllr Ali was elected to Regent's Park ward in May 2002, becoming deputy mayor the same year. He became council leader from 2010 to 2012 and cabinet member for young people from 2012 to 2014.

The former Netley Primary School pupil has been involved in charity work since the age of 14.

A keen footballer, in 1995 he set up Camden United, using the sport to bring together conflicting groups of Bangladeshi and white youths. The project received local and national awards, including recognition from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

Currently, Camden United project has players of 15 different nationalities and the project's model has been duplicated abroad – including in South Africa, Hungary and Northern Ireland – to challenge racism and territorialism, and to unite conflicting young people, using football as the tool.

"I'm passionate about young people and diversity," he said.

In 1998, Nasim was awarded one of the first Camden Good Citizen Awards for his work in uniting local young people and diverting them away from crime, drugs and conflict.

He was made OBE in 2011 for services to the voluntary sector and to local government.

As mayor, his chosen charity is Hopscotch Women’s Centre, in Hampstead Road, which helps women affected by abuse and poverty.

"Hopscotch has got a personal touch for me," he said. "When my family first came to this country in 1976, even though Hopscotch officially say it's around from '98, in '76 they were around but the name was different.

"My mum couldn't speak English and my dad had limited English ability so they helped them, supported them, gave them extra resources.

"At the moment, with the increase in domestic violence because of Covid, and violence against women and girls, the work they do is amazing, and the home care is great as well."

Nadia Shah, Nasim Ali and Heather Johnson re-elected to Regents Park ward

Cllrs Nadia Shah, Nasim Ali and Heather Johnson re-elected to Regents Park ward - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Nasim is a trustee of St Andrew Holborn charities and of St Pancras Welfare Trust, observer to the Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) Board, governor of Camden and Islington NHS Trust, vice chair of Camden Community Centre’s Consortium (C4), chair of Camden Mela (Bangladeshi) Committee and chair of Labour Friends of Bangladesh.

He is also chief executive of the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association, an organisation providing services that help to tackle inequality, create opportunities and transform the lives of people in King’s Cross and Camden.

He wants to use his new position to hold receptions for unsung groups such as Camden's bin men and the borough's caretakers.

"They work tirelessly. These are people living in our areas who rarely get acknowledged," he said.

In 2003 he abseiled down Centrepoint for charity. Now 52 will he abseil again?

"It depends which one we get permission for. Maybe the Google building or Capital Radio building. I'm up for it."