Ibrahim Dogus is your new Mayor of Lambeth!
By Dennis Stuart
Councillor Ibrahim Dogus has been elected the next Mayor of Lambeth, set to take office on 22 May. On his election to the new office, Ibrahim expressed the inspiration he draws from the diversity of people, cultures and businesses in the borough.
As a teenage Kurdish refugee in the 1990s who washed restaurant dishes without speaking much English, he said that his becoming Mayor showed how Lambeth was a place of opportunity for all – and that it’s his top priority to make sure this continues.
The challenges we face are huge, but we are armed with common sense, community spirit and creative genius.”
The Mayor’s duties include chairing council meetings and, as first citizen, playing an ambassadorial role in Lambeth as well as across London to promote the borough.
Who is the new Mayor?
Ibrahim was born in Turkey and moved to Britain in 1993 with his family, and while studying worked his way up from being a kitchen porter to an assistant manager, saving up for a decade to eventually buy his first restaurant.
During this time he established support groups for refugees and became a community organiser and founded Telgraf, the UK’s first Kurdish- and Turkish-language community newspaper, as well as joining the Labour Party, for which he has campaigned in every election since he was 19 years old.
He said: “I grew up in London as part of a working class family who taught me the importance of hard work, strong public services and giving back to the local community.
“I joined the Labour Party because of the kindness so many Labour people showed my family when they arrived in Britain from Turkey as Kurdish political refugees.
“My campaigning experience, especially anti-drug and anti-gang advocacy, has taught me how to find common ground with people and bring them together to get things done.”
Ibrahim was profiled in 2016 by the Evening Standardas a rising star of both the restaurant industry and of the Labour Party:
The new Mayor has a master’s degree in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, as well as a degree in Politics from the University of Greenwich.He has also established both the Centre for Turkey Studies and the Centre for Kurdish Progress think tanks, to provide platforms for dialogue on issues affecting Turkey, the UK and Kurdish regions in the Middle East.
As an owner of three small businesses in Lambeth employing dozens of local people, Ibrahim set up the SME4Labour organisation to help champion links between the party and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as self-employed people.
He also founded the British Kebab Awards in 2013, to celebrate the small businesses that thousands of migrants from all over the world set up, run and work for in the UK.
The British Kebab Awards are an annual event which has seen the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan as guests, as well as Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner MP; Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler MP; TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, and many others.
This passion to celebrate the small businesses of the restaurant and takeaway sectors prompted him to create Bira, the world’s first beer specifically designed to be enjoyed with kebabs, and led to a profile in the Financial Times:
As Labour candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster Parliamentary constituency in the General Election of 2017, Ibrahim gained a 9% swing from the incumbent and reduced a safe 10,000 majority to a marginal 3,000.
In May, 2018, Ibrahim was elected to Lambeth Council to represent Bishop’s ward in Lambeth, where he lives with his family and where his restaurants are, as well as taking on the role of being Deputy Mayor. He had previously been Membership Secretary for the ward, as well as Fundraising Officer for Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party.
As a small business owner, Ibrahim is also a supporter and member of the Business Improvement Districts for both Vauxhall and for Waterloo.
His efforts to promote small businesses run so often by migrants to key figures in Parliament have led to him being featured in the New Statesman, and described as “the best-connected man in politics”:
Ibrahim pays London Living Wage and above to his businesses’ staff, including in his social enterprises such as Lambeth Life newspaper and the Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS).
He said: “I started out washing dishes and waiting tables in London in the 1990s. I know what it is live to count up wages and tips at the end of a shift, and then see if it is enough to live on.
“From Brexit to business rates, the cost of running a small business just keeps on going up – and I am keenly aware that not all SMEs can afford to pay the living wage to all their staff right now.”
Representatives from the Durham Miners’ Association were guests of honour at a fundraising dinner for the Durham Miners’ Gala trade unionist event, first held in 1871, that Ibrahim held on behalf of SME4Labour in his Troia restaurant in May last year.
It was attended by General Secretary the GMB Union Tim Roache; General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) Dave Ward; General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) Doug Nicholls; General Secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) Mick Whelan; Director of International & Research at Unite the Union Simon Dubbins; Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery MP; Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Bill Esterson MP; Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tony Lloyd MP; Shadow Minister for Justice Gloria De Piero MP; Shadow Minister for Education and Children and Families Emma Lewell-Buck MP and Jo Stevens MP.
During the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March, 2017, Ibrahim kept Troia open late into the night and fed hundreds of emergency responders from the London Ambulance Service, the fire brigade and police for free.
He told the Evening Standard at the time: “It’s the very least I could do, and I think that’s what any Londoner would do in the same situation as me.”
The story was first published in theIndependent, and shared thousands of times across the world:
Ibrahim was subsequently awarded a commendation from Simon Messinger, the Borough Commander of Lambeth police, at a ceremony along with others who came together to help during the attack.
Ibrahim has previously worked for Haringey Council, promoting community and culture for its Library Services department; he has been a member of an advisory group for Hackney police; and a member of the Equalities Commission for the Greater London Authority (GLA) during Ken Livingstone’s London mayoralty.
From 2004 to 2008 he worked to raise funds to set up and run football leagues for more than 30 teams in north London, part of a larger sports strategy to reach out to socially disadvantaged youth and young people not in employment, education or training, to help tackle anti-social behaviour, drug addiction and crime.
As part of his campaigning, Ibrahim is a frequent contributor to publications including the Guardian and Labour List.
His campaigning to protect the restaurant and takeaway industries and their migrant workers from immigration controls and Brexit has led to him being featured in The Timesin March last year:
Immigrants make Britain great!
At last year’s British Kebab Awards, Ibrahim said that Brexit must not be allowed to leave a damaging legacy for the UK’s catering sector, and in January, 2019, he added a similarly pro-migrant message to all till receipts from his restaurants: Brexit is bad. Immigrants make Britain great. They also cooked and served your food today.
After a happy customer posted a photograph of the message on social media, many applauded it – but soon far right groups started making threats online and over the phone to restaurant staff, making fake bookings for tables and posting negative reviews.
Ibrahim informed the police of these hateful incidents, and sought their advice on how to proceed.
He told the Independentat the time: “Love will win over hate and those who are trying to disguise their racism as political activism are once again caught out.”
Both as a councillor, and as Deputy Mayor, Ibrahim has attended scores of events and supported Lambeth residents, schools, community groups and organisations all over the borough, including at the Stockwell Festival; presiding at citizenship ceremoniesat Lambeth Town Hall; cheering on charity winter swimming at Brockwell Lido; and at Remembrance Sunday commemorations, both in Brixton and at City Hall.
He said: “We are at our best when we come together as a community, and I’m honoured to be able to serve and to support the people of Lambeth, a borough with such a wonderful sense of community spirit.
“I’ve always lived by the rule that if there’s something that you care about, you do something about it, so over the coming year I urge everyone who cares about where they live and their local area to get involved in a community group – you’ll meet new friends, have new experiences, help other people, and it will change your life for the better.”
Find out more about Lambeth’s new Mayor at www.ibrahimdogus.org