By Adrian Zorzut, Local Democracy Reporter
A former advisor to the President of Somalia and businessman who plans to get his own brand of hot sauce “on every table around the world” has been elected as the new Labour opposition leader at a West London council.
Councillor Kasim Ali has become the first ever British-Somali to be elected as the opposition leader of a major political party at local authority level in England after taking the reins for Labour in Kensington and Chelsea last night.
Cllr Ali, who came to the UK as a refugee from Somalia in 2001, ran unopposed and took over from cllr Emma Dent Coad, who stepped down last month claiming that party has become “unrecognisable” in a video released on her Twitter page.
The 41-year-old dad-of-four said he was grateful to his constituents in Dalgarno Ward and fellow councillors for trusting him with the leadership and promised to work with the Tory-led council to improve housing and educational opportunities in the borough and ensure victims of Grenfell Tower get justice.
But the 41-year-old councillor will be juggling more than just politics, having recently created his own brand of hot sauce which he intends to make into an international business.
Cllr Ali launched his hot sauce business called Kensington Sauce in October 2020.
The chef has been making the secret concoction for more than 20 years and already has plans in place to start selling thousands of bottles.
He said he may step aside from his new council role if his business takes off.
He said: “I want Kensington Sauce to be on every table around the world if not every other second table. If that happens and I still have energy left in the tank to continue serving my constituents, I will do so.
“If not, I will relinquish my responsibility but I am very keen to represent my constituents.”
Mr Ali said housing was among his top priorities, he wants to push the council to increase the ratio of social housing in all new builds to 70 per cent.
He has promised to seek justice for Grenfell Tower survivors and wants the council and all those responsible to compensate all residents, not just survivors, who were affected by the devastating blaze.
He said: “Those who made the decisions that resulted in the deaths of 72 people must face justice, whether they have to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, or admit it.”
He added: “Justice delayed is justice denied. It is unfair for the people who have gone through that… I want the council and everyone else responsible to take responsibility for their actions and compensate everyone in the local area who has been affected directly or indirectly.”
Mr Ali has been a Kensington and Chelsea councillor since 2019 and is currently chair of the council’s Housing and Communities Committee.
He won the traditionally Labour seat of Dalgarno by 719 votes in 2019 following the resignation of his predecessor, Robert Thompson, after his job moved.
He was born in Somalia and arrived in the UK as a refugee aged 18. He went on to complete a masters in global prosperity at University College London and previously worked as a bus driver.
He also works as an education consultant and set up the political group Somalis for Labour.
He advised the then President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on education, health and agriculture, in 2016.
Pictured top: Kasim Ali, 41, was elected RBKC Labour leader unopposed on May 18 (Picture: Adrian Zorzut)
Source: South London Press