Ali’s set to bat­tle Boris

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

“I CAN beat Boris John­son in Uxbridge be­cause I care about it and he doesn’t.”

That’s the telling mes­sage spelled out by the Labour Party’s new can­di­date for Uxbridge and South Ruis­lip, Ali Mi­lani, when I in­ter­view him at a lo­cal cafe.

The 24-year-old is su­per con­fi­dent and driven for his age, but as vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents, you would ex­pect as much.

He’s not at all cowed by re­cent neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing anti-semitic tweets he sent when he was a teenager.

The Daily Mail and other na­tional news­pa­pers have slated him for the mes­sages. But al­though apolo­getic, Mr Mi­lani is de­ter­mined not to let it get in the way of his vi­sion to serve the peo­ple of Uxbridge.

“I made those com­ments when I was a teenager. I am deeply re­gret­ful and will con­tinue to apol­o­gise for them,” he says.

“I’ve done a lot in my role at the NUS and as a coun­cil­lor to sup­port the Jewish com­mu­nity and work to bat­tle an­ti­semitism, and I will con­tinue to do so.”

Some of it he says was to do with his school­ing: “In the school I went to, that kind of lan­guage was com­mon. It’s no way an ex­cuse, and I will con­tinue to do what­ever I can to build trust.”

Mr Mi­lani says his na­tional po­si­tion with the NUS has also made him a tar­get for racism so he knows ex­actly what it’s like.

So with that out the way, it’s back to beat­ing Boris. How’s he go­ing to do it ex­actly?

“I’m a lo­cal res­i­dent from Uxbridge. I’ve worked here and stud­ied here and I live here. I’m not just us­ing this as a plat­form like Boris is,” he says.

“A char­la­tan even­tu­ally gets found out. The To­ries ob­vi­ously don’t care about Uxbridge.

“Peo­ple send me emails say­ing they’ve tried to get in touch with this guy [Boris] but he’s nowhere to be found.

“It’s about hav­ing some­one who’s based here and who feels the same pain as ev­ery­body else. It’s about that com­mu­nal feel­ing.”

He says Boris’ fail­ure to vote against the plans for Heathrow will also be a key de­cider: “He made big state­ments about Heathrow say­ing he would lie down in front of the bulldozers but he has failed to act on it. That’s why his ma­jor­ity has halved,” he says point­edly.

It’s been hard won. His mother came to the UK from Iran when her re­la­tion­ship broke down and raised him and his sis- ter on her own. He was just five years old at the time.

The fam­ily moved around a lot, but Mr Mi­lani says his mum was de­ter­mined to do what­ever it took to get the best life pos­si­ble for her chil­dren.

And cru­cially he got a good ed­u­ca­tion at St Au­gus­tine’s CE High School in Maida Vale. “My mum dreamed of a bet­ter life and an ed­u­ca­tion and free­dom of speech for her chil­dren and those were the prin­ci­ples I was brought up with.

“Imag­ine the brav­ery, just pick­ing up all your be­long­ings and flee­ing to a new coun­try. It took an in­cred­i­ble amount of courage but it was just about want­ing the best for your kids. I re­mem­ber be­ing very, very con­fused when we got here, just com­plete con­fu­sion. And I re­mem­ber be­ing in school and strug­gling with the lan­guage.

“I didn’t speak much English. We lived in a coun­cil house and it was al­ways week-to-week in terms of get­ting by.

“I sup­pose this jour­ney gave me an in­sight into some of the things like ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and health­care that are so im­por­tant to pro­tect.

“I want to make sure hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion are pos­si­ble for every­one.

“But peo­ple al­ways wanted to help and not much has changed in that re­gard. Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is our strength in west Lon­don. That’s why I love my com­mu­nity. I want to make sure that help is there for every kid and every fam­ily.”

It was when ed­u­ca­tion main­te­nance al­lowance grants for stu­dents be­gan to be cut that Mi­lani first got in­volved in pol­i­tics. He was in sixth form and he went on to study In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at Brunel Univer­sity.

He re­mem­bers get­ting in­volved in marches against the se­cond Gulf war as a young­ster.

At univer­sity, he joined var­i­ous so­ci­eties and be­came pres­i­dent of the Stu­dents’ Union in his third year, then he stood for vice pres­i­dent of the NUS.

“I went through the whole sys­tem and we had EMA grants cut, the first year of £9K tu­ition fees and the first gen­er­a­tion to have the main­te­nance sup­port grant cut. I’ve al­ways loved ed­u­ca­tion but I don’t be­lieve in an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that sad­dles peo­ple with debt. Also, when the whole di­rec­tion is study­ing to pass an exam you lose the colour of ed­u­ca­tion. Test­ing should be a mea­sure of progress.”

But how is Ali Mi­lani from Uxbridge re­ally go­ing to un­seat the po­lit­i­cal giant that Boris has be­come?

For one thing he plans to get the ball rolling early, hop­ing to or­gan­ise ‘shadow surg­eries’ so res­i­dents can come and talk to him in per­son.

He says he’s com­mit­ted to tack­ling real prob­lems he see in the bor­ough such as home­less­ness, the prob­lems with the roll-out of Uni­ver­sal Credit and air pol­lu­tion.

He says he’ll also fight for a re­main stance on Brexit be­cause “vi­tal” EU laws on is­sues such as air pol­lu­tion and be­cause so many EU staff are vi­tal work­ing in the UK at Heathrow and in the NHS.

Ul­ti­mately though he says it will come down to the fact he is here on the streets will­ing to spend time with peo­ple in Uxbridge.

“I’m a cam­paigner by trade and he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. He doesn’t like be­ing here but I do,” he laughs.

What­ever peo­ple think about Mr Mi­lani’s past ac­tions, Boris will cer­tainly have plenty to think about in the run up to the next elec­tion – when­ever that may hap­pen.

Ali Mi­lani, 24, hopes vot­ers in Uxbridge and South Ruis­lip will back him in the next gen­eral elec­tion

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