Leeds City Council elects first ever West Indian Lord Mayor

Leeds now has its first ever West Indian lord mayor, following the council’s annual meeting this week.

New Lord Mayor Coun Eileen Taylor, with husband and consort Audley.

Coun Eileen Taylor, who has served as a Labour member of council since 2008, was elected unanimously by fellow councillors at the authority’s annual general meeting.

She becomes the 126th Lord Mayor of Leeds, and follows Coun Graham Latty into the role. Her husband Audley, also known as Pete, will become her consort.

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Speaking following her election, Coun Taylor said: “I never would have thought that I would see this day, but it is here, and I am absolutely delighted to have this privilege to be Lord Mayor and ambassador for this city.

“I have travelled a long journey to sit in this chair. It is good as a child to listen to their parents. At first I did not want to come to England in the early 70s for one reason – it’s so cold.

“In those days in Jamaica, we didn’t have television, but in school we learned that England and America were very cold countries, so I didn’t understand why my dad came here!

“When I arrived, my dad always shared with me that you should mix with everyone, you should listen and learn, and respect everyone because we are all different.

“I am so glad I listened to those wise words. Coming to England in my early years was no different from any other migrants coming to a foreign country. You study and you learn the culture.

“You meet some amazing people, I have also met some horrible people, but you leave the horrible people behind.

“Being a councillor was not part of my dream. [Leeds Northwest MP] Alex Sobel was one who really gave me the passion to become a member of the Labour Party.

“Thank you very much for choosing me as a black migrant Lord Mayor and to represent the city.”

She chose the mayor’s charity to be Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL).

Council leader Judith Blake led the tributes to Coun Taylor, stating: “It is my huge pleasure and privilege to move that Coun Eileen Taylor be made new Lord Mayor of Leeds.

“She will be the 126th citizen of Leeds to be Lord Mayor. I hope we have a fabulous evening and an enriched and thrilling year ahead, as I’m sure Eileen will give to us all.

“Eileen is a leading member of the West Indian community and it’s the first time in our city’s history that we have elected a member of the West Indian community to be our mayor.

“Many of you will know her father came to Britain in the early 1960s, as part of the Windrush generation, helping our communities to rebuild and helping make an important contribution to our cities.

“Eileen joined him as a teenager in the early 1970s, along with other people who made Leeds their home.

“The Windrush generation has brought so much to our city, so much talent and such important skills. They are held with strong affection across our city.

“Eileen went on to work in the NHS – she continued to work there until 2012, focusing on learning disabilities and mental health – skills she has brought to this council in abundance.

“We also know the great communities of Chapeltown and Harehills were the areas so many people came here to live in. It’s a fantastic testament to how strong our communities are in Leeds.

“We must tonight acknowledge the contribution the carnival has made to the cultural spirit of Leeds – 150,000 minimum come to enjoy the carnival every year. It’s the longest running carnival in this country and in Europe.

“She is going to be a great representative for us in this chamber and right beyond onto a wider stage. I think we’re in for a great year.”

Conservative councillor Dan Cohen, seconding the motion, joked: “Some weeks ago, a council officer said ‘Coun Cohen, did your wife enjoy the election count?’ – I was somewhat confused because she was at home with the kids.

“The officer looked really confused, and said ‘who was the lady you were walking arm in arm with?’ I said it was the Lord Mayor elect Coun Taylor!”

He added: “She is living proof that with hard work, commitment and dedication to our city, you can indeed reach the highest office Leeds can bestow.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Stewart Golton added: “She is an effective politician, and when she talks to other members of the chamber, she is a great human being. She makes us feel special, and her humanity is what will make her a great lord mayor.”

Morley Borough Independents councillor Judith Elliott said: “I have known Eileen since she was first elected in 2008, and we hit it off on a good accord that has continued to this day.

“I met her when I was Mayor at the West Indian community, and found the community spirit to be vibrant and inclusive.

“For the community to have the first West Indian Lord Mayor is simply fantastic, and it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person than Eileen.

“She sets an example of what is achievable when one sets out to get an education, with no doubt many great challenges, and to persevere.”

Coun Mark Dobson, head of the Garforth and Swillington Independents group, said: “She is an amazing woman. Her warmth, humanity and kindness she shows to all of us means she will do a wonderful job in the coming year.”

Green Party councillor Ann Blackburn said: “Eileen has come a long way in her life – from travelling to England from Jamaica to join her father in the early 70s.

“As Eileen embarks on another important part of her journey in life the Green group hopes her and her consort, Audley, enjoy their year in office.”

Coun Taylor will remain mayor for the forthcoming municipal year.