The Lord Mayor of Chester offered an insight into her personal and political journey during an evening honouring her achievements attended by VIPs including former Tory cabinet minister Priti Patel MP.
Cllr Razia Daniels was the focus of the Aiming High event held at Chester’s Riverside Innovation Centre which also sought to encourage others from diverse backgrounds to pursue public and political roles as well as simply getting involved in their community.
Cllr Daniels, who represents Handbridge, began by showing her appreciation to organisers behind the gathering which attracted people of various ethnicities with key speakers including Mrs Patel but also ex-Cheshire Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy and former Cheshire County Council chief executive Robin Wendt.
Cllr Daniels, who is from an Indian background, explained that she was born in Tanzania, East Africa.
“I never imagined that one day I would be standing here as Lord Mayor of Chester,” said Cllr Daniels, who recalled her parents had actually wanted her to become a doctor in line with ‘what most Asian families want their children to be’ although she actually became a professional gemmologist and met Stephen, an antiques expert. They had an ‘amazing life’ travelling the world together before settling down in Chester in 1985 after tying the knot.
“It’s really important you all get involved in public life,“ stressed the Tory councillor, whose political hero was the late Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Although it was after hearing David Cameron pledge to end ‘Punch and Judy politics’ that Cllr Daniels actually joined the Conservative Party even though his commitment didn’t last long. And she soon found herself in at the deep end after the person who was supposed to stand as Tory council candidate for Handbridge didn’t turn up.
She said: “Stephen Mosley (former Chester MP) knocked on my door and said would I like to stand as a councillor. I said ‘What’s involved?’ and he said ‘Oh, only a couple of weeks, not much’. I said ‘OK then’. I went away and when I came back everybody in Handbridge knew about me and within a month I was a councillor.”
One of her proudest achievements was securing funding for a zebra crossing in Queen’s Park Road, Handbridge, which had been needed for years. After ‘dangling’ her members’ budget under the nose of the council highways officer, she told him: “I have enough elderly women who want this crossing and I achieved that and I’m so proud of it and every time I pass it, I salute it!”
“And that sums up what being a councillor is all about. It’s about making things happen,” she concluded.
Key note speaker Priti Patel MP, who is British-born but also has Indian heritage, was glowing in her praise of Cllr Daniels describing her as ‘a hard act to follow’.
Mrs Patel resigned from her post as Secretary of State for International Development last November after reportedly holding unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.
She was an interesting choice for the meeting which was promoted as to ‘acknowledge Chester’s first BME (black and minority ethnic) Lord Mayor and encourage people from BME to pursue public and political roles...’ Mrs Patel recently told BBC Radio Kent she found the commonly-used BME abbreviation to be ‘patronising' and 'insulting’. This was because being born in Britain, she considered herself British first and foremost.
The former minister, whose Indian parents fled Uganda, also in East Africa, to become shopkeepers in London, told the Lord Mayor and those gathered: “I’m a complete believer in the freedom to succeed and that all of us are empowered as individuals to be the success that we want to be.
“And I think that’s vital to the spirit of public service but also to wanting to participate in our community as well. So you have shown tremendous leadership but also motivational leadership and inspirational leadership which I hope will inspire many future generations to come as well,” added Mrs Patel, who entered Parliament following an international business career.
Speeches were followed by a free meal courtesy of Abdun Noor, owner of the Chester Tandoori restaurant in Brook Street, who is also chairman of Cheshire Asian and Minority Communities Council, the organisers of the event.