My first 100 days as a Councillor

When I joined the Lib Dems in April 2017, little did I know that a year later I would be the first BAME Lib Dem councillor elected in Merton.

I have many people to thank for my journey, but essentially this happened because I was trusted by my new Lib Dem family to help lead our success in Merton and show our values by the way I serve – which is what I’ve tried to do.

The election campaign was intense and emotional. West Barnes was a top target ward and a lot rested on us winning. But it wasn’t easy. Early on the two sitting Conservatives were still confident, delighting in using social media to patronise and ridicule us. Labour brought out their big guns: the neighbouring MP, local parliamentary candidate, Momentum activists and the Leader of the Council who made our ward his second home. He claimed he would ensure there were no Lib Dems on Merton council. This was a battle!

At times it was nasty. I was shouted at by Labour activists when I talked to residents, and people who declared they would vote for us were heckled in the street.

But our campaigns were local, relevant and consistent. We listened and acted on what we were told, committed to real change, and a fresh start. As candidates we were on the streets nearly every day for nearly 2 years, building on years of work by our sitting and former councillors and others. We were not here just to win, we were here to serve.

By the count I was exhausted, and there were moments I felt we may have lost. By midnight as the votes piled up it was clear it was between us and the Tories. By 4am, a recount. The Tories just couldn’t believe we had beaten all their candidates for the first time in 18 years. But we did! We won all 3 seats in West Barnes and had a real breakthrough with our first wins in Dundonald and Trinity wards too. Our best results ever, with a group of 6 councillors.

My first week in I did as I promised and started to make a difference. I organised an inter-faith Iftar (the meal Muslims have to end the day’s fast) during Ramadan – the first ever organised by Merton Council – for local community and faith groups at our local library. At my first Council meeting I proposed a plan to keep local parks free for a football charity, following a big campaign we had run in the election. Residents came to the meeting and brought banners and posters in support. We lost the motion but the next day we were on the front page of the local paper, and more importantly we’re still fighting!

Since May, we’ve met with train companies to push for more accessible local stations. We have regular meetings with housing associations to help give tenants a voice. Along with other Lib Dem councillors, I recently topped the score board for members enquiries – helping more residents have a voice at the council than many other Merton councillors.

In my first 100 days I have learned how rewarding being a Liberal Democrat councillor can be, and I can see even more clearly the barriers we need to break down to make a real difference for our community. There is much more to do over the next 4 years and I’m excited to see what the next 100 days will bring.

* Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly.

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  • nigel hunter 9th Sep '18 - 10:24am

    Where the residents came to the meeting for support, these are the ‘associate members’ that we need.Equally if one of these supporters need help in shopping cos of a disability or lone parent under pressure we should help out. etc. It is the human touch.

  • Steve Trevethan 9th Sep '18 - 11:31am

    Well done HB!!!
    Perhaps local community value, especially visible value, is a foundation of party purpose and party integrity.
    Might HQ make a note of this and act accordingly?

  • It was so good to look through the results in May and see you were elected – and so good to hear how you are getting stuck in following the very best of Lib Dem local government campaigning.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '18 - 1:38pm

    If there is a reason why I think a very knee jerk rejection of Sir Vince’s good open approach and moderate stance, is wrong, it is this article.

    Not much that was moderate in the nastiness of the Tory and Labour activists, the ones who abuse Hina.

    Not sure a few moderates would have been like this to her!!!!!

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Sep '18 - 2:16pm

    This is such a morale boosting piece, especially when you say that you want to show our values by the way you serve. In fact I’m crying with joy!

  • marcstevens 9th Sep '18 - 5:23pm

    Congratulations on your election, a very inspiring piece to read. All your hard work and campaigning on local issues paid off. It was disappointing however that you encountered the politics of hate from other parties during the campaign, all parties should be doing more to ensure their activists behave in a civil way.

  • Congratulations. It’s great to read your positive article which should encourage other who have not served on a Council.i have fond memories of my time in local government and I hope you can inspire others to actually do something instead of sitting on their bums and expecting others to do it. You set a fine example.

  • This is a lovely article. Thanks for sharing Hina. Merton Lib Dems’ success in May aren’t realised (let alone talked about) enough.

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