Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with Anthony Ramsay – Mayor of Barking

Emdad Rahman

Councillor Anthony Keith Ramsay was born in the Royal Free Hospital, London in 1955. He was brought up in Hertfordshire and Essex, attending the Broxbourne Primary School, John Warner School Hoddesdon and the East Herts College of Further Education. Councillor Ramsay has a BA (Hons) degree in Public Administration from Manchester Metropolitan University and passed his Chartered Secretaries examinations at Barking College.

He has lived in Barking and Dagenham for 33 years and is married to fellow Councillor Jeanne Alexander. His children Nicola and Ben attended local schools.

Councillor Ramsay is a season ticket holder at the Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club and a member of the Dagenham Rugby Club said: “I am immensely honoured to be chosen by my colleagues to be the Mayor of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for 2012 - 2013. I am really looking forward to working alongside local residents and organisations that work tirelessly for local people and raise money for my nominated charities.” He moved to the borough in 1978 and fell in love with the area immediately: “My first memory is a saunter down Ripple Road. I never changed my mind after that, never considered leaving. It is one of the friendliest areas of London. It is diverse, the most hospitable in London and home to me and my family. Barking is a wonderful place to live.”

Councillor Ramsay explained his role and responsibilities: “It’s an opportunity to do what I enjoy doing the most, meeting the people of this borough at community events, meetings, and ribbon cutting events. Anybody is free to request the Mayor’s presence at their community events and I would be very happy to visit.”

Education is a passion and Councillor Ramsay has been a governor of Eastbury Comprehensive School since 1986, serving as Chair of its Finance Committee since 1990 and as the governing body Vice Chair since 1998. He is also a governor of Rush Green Junior School. Previously he was a governor of Eastbury Infants, Ripple Infants and Ripple Junior Schools

Councillor Ramsay works as a Data Analyst in Newham’s Environmental Services Division, having previously worked as Principal Officer (Resources and Administrative Services) in Social Services. He was a member of the trade union TSSA whilst working for British Railways in 1973-1974. He said: “I worked for Newham Council in 1976-1977 and again from 1978 joining the union Nalgo, serving as the branch Vice Chair in 1980-1981. I am now a member of Unison following trade union amalgamation and have represented the branch on the Barking Constituency Labour Party’s General Committee.

“I have been involved in the Labour Party since the 1970 general election. Locally I have been a member of both the Gascoigne and latterly the Abbey Ward branches and was elected as councillor for Eastbrook Ward in May 2010.” He was elected Chair of the Labour Group of councillors in 2010 and also chairs the Dagenham East Regeneration Group set up to work in partnership to save jobs and develop services on the Sanofi site in Dagenham.

Councillor Ramsay reminisced his political adventure: “It may be 42 years of active participation but I have had a keen interest in politics since 1964. The 1970 general election was a catalyst. I worked my socks off to get Harold Wilson elected and tasted early failure as Ted Heath became PM. I wasn’t disheartened. I put my heart and soul into political activity and was spurred on remembering the joy of 1974, when we celebrated a narrow Labour victory over Ted Heath’s Tories at Harlow Town Hall, near to where I lived at the time. I have been involved with Labour in the capacity of Vice Chair, Ward Chair, Secretary and Secretary of the local Government Committee and the last two years as Chair of the Borough’s Labour group.”

Councillor Ramsay was keen to point out the advantages of being Mayor: “I feel immensely privileged to represent this borough as Mayor. Our citizens are amongst the friendliest and meeting and representing the good people is certainly the best part of being Mayor. Our citizens are what make our borough function so well and we have diverse groups, youth organisations, religions, ethnic minorities and others not attached to any groups who always make their Mayor most welcome.”

He has met a few well known faces too: “Tommy Walsh was an honour to meet as I have been an admirer for such a long time. Colin McMillan is one of the nicest and down to earth people I have met and 12 year old singer Molly Rainford was an absolute inspiration.”

Councillor Ramsay will soon take part in the Costermonger service and festival which is part of a tradition started in the 1800’s. Dignitaries are joined by Pearly Kings and Queens, in a memorable occasion at the spiritual home of the London Cockney. The London Mayor’s Walk in March will involve a five mile charity walk from Whittington Hospital to Mansion House, fully robed but with sensible footwear” he said.

Councillor Ramsay has advice for aspiring politicians and young people in general: “Always stick to your convictions. Sometimes it may seem very hard but your time will come and before long political opportunities will arise. Barking and Dagenham used to be seen as a place for the older generation, and now it has a very healthy balance of both young and old and opportunities for new councillors have opened up. My other piece of advice is to enjoy your youth. Be idealistic and enthusiastic. It is part of growing up and really important.”

The mayor is keen to point out the importance of political participation: “Democratic involvement in the political process is a vital ingredient to not only a borough, but a nation’s stability and progress. We have seen the consequences when such participation has broken down. Sadly we saw what happened in our own borough when the racist and divisive British National Party made political headway. We eventually woke up and stood firm to drive them out. Politics is a mass activity and should not be restricted to a few. It is the only way to get positive outcomes.”

Councillor Ramsay’s nominated charities are Living the Dream Trust and St Francis Hospice.

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