Former council leader Raj Chada: ‘The only place I want to represent is Holborn and St Pancras’

Raj Chada. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Raj Chada. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

As a young man, Raj Chada was banned from joining the political party for which he is now hoping to be elected to parliament.

The Labour Party’s long-running ban on members from Northern Ireland, not lifted until 2003, precluded him from seeking membership until he crossed the Irish Sea to begin a law degree at the University of Cambridge.

Having been born to Indian immigrants in the small town of Magherafelt, about 35 miles west of Belfast, the 41-year-old grew up at the height of the Troubles and experienced alienation and conflict from a young age.

“There was a bombing in the town centre when I was young,” he recalls. “There was a shooting just outside my school but more than that there was the feeling that this was just a society and a community that was completely fractured.

“As people who were outsiders and neutral, it was certainly alienating.”

Moving to Camden in 1999, Mr Chada says he fell in love with a place where community was thriving.

In his professional life, Mr Chada has won awards as a criminal lawyer specialising in free speech rights and working with demonstration groups, such as the Occupy movement.

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It was the race riots of 2001 which prompted Mr Chada to become an active Labour member locally.

By 2002, he was elected as a Camden councillor and became leader of the Labour administration from 2005 to 2006 when he lost his seat.

During his time at the council he met his wife, who was also a councillor, and with whom he has two children.

Mr Chada, who lives in Kentish Town and is chairman of Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party, attempted Labour selection in the constituencies of Reading and Darlington ahead of the last general election.

He will join four other candidates vying for selection as Labour parliamentary candidate for Holborn and St Pancras to replace outgoing MP Frank Dobson at a final hustings tomorrow.

If unsuccessful on Saturday, it is a process he insists he will not go through again.

“I won’t stand again. I’m in a different stage in my life and in my career. As I live here and my kids go to primary school, the only place I want to represent is here.”