In conversation with Khayer Chowdhury

The first of it's series, we talked to Councillor Khayer Chowdhury, one of Redbridge Labour's youngest Councillors

How old are you and what do you do?
I'm 27 and I am a Councillor at the London Borough of Redbridge. I also work in a consultancy firm which specialises in community outreach and urban regeneration.

What’s your background?
My parents came to Britain in the late 80s from Bangladesh. They met here and got married. I was born and raised in Tower Hamlets, East London along with my 3 siblings (1 brother and 2 sisters). We grew up not far from the famous Ocean Estate in Stepney Green. We moved to Redbridge in 2010 as we needed more space as a family.

What led to you becoming involved in politics and the Labour Party?
Let me put it this way, when I was completing my undergraduate degree at Westminster University between 2009 and 2012, if somebody said I’d become a Councillor within 2 years of graduating, I would have laughed in their face and walked off. Despite studying politics in theory, I was more detached in practice. I never pictured myself in public service as I always wanted to work in an NGO. Mind you, when I was in primary school, I always wanted to join the Fire Brigade (truth be told, I still wouldn’t mind driving a fire engine!).

It was during my postgraduate degree at UCL, I became involved with the last Redbridge Young Labour and started taking a wider interest in the community. I became more aware of local developments and how decisions made in the Town Hall impacted on people’s lives. It was also during that period I met some fantastic people in Redbridge Labour and recognised my talents. The encouraged me to tap into those talents and look into standing as a candidate in the upcoming Local Elections. Shortly after that, I applied and ended up winning the election!

How was it working for Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral campaign? Any gossip?
Shortly after the 2015 General Election, Sadiq asked me if I would work on his campaign to become Labour’s Candidate for Mayor of London. I didn’t hesitate for a second because I believed in him and his ability to win and serve. It was a really fantastic role as I learned so much working across the city and closely with Sadiq. We learned so much and were consequently able to shape our campaign and policies to ensure every citizen of London felt like they could be a part of our movement. It was also an exhausting role as I worked on average around 12-15 hours a day, had very little sleep to go by.

It was also incredibly fun as I had really fantastic colleagues and of course, Sadiq. I remember once we were driving back from North London to the East End and suddenly Sadiq said he wanted something sweet. We pulled into McDonalds and decided to go to town on McFlurries and Apple Pies. We ended up being quite late for our event but it was totally worth it! Mind you, he blamed the lateness on me saying I was craving ice cream and took ages!

What advice do you have for those interested in getting involved in the Labour party or standing for public office?
My advice to anybody who is interested in politics is first, study hard because you learn a lot of relevant history about politics in Britain. If you don’t know where you come from, you will never know where you’re going as an individual and as a citizen. It’s really important to know how we have developed, matured, and changed as a society and country. Second, become active in your community. Speak to people on the doorstep. You will learn more on the doorstep speaking to people than you will reading any book. As I said before, studying is very important to learn about history but the doorstep is important to learn about current issues in your community.