‘The difference between the nervous 11-year-old immigrant boy and the proud Yorkshireman standing here today is huge’ – Asghar Khan becomes new Leeds Lord Mayor

Leeds City councillors have voted Coun Asghar Khan in as the next Lord Mayor of Leeds, in a ceremony in Leeds Town Hall this week.

Coun Khan becomes the city’s 127th Lord Mayor at Leeds City Council’s AGM council’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 20, taking over the role from the previous incumbent Coun Eileen Taylor, who served an unprecedented two years in the role.

Coun Khan will be accompanied during his time as Mayor by his wife and Lady Mayoress, Robina Kosar.

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Having spent his early years living in the Mirpur district of Kashmir, Asghar moved to Beeston in 1980 when he was 11 years old to join his father, who had found work in an Armley foundry.

Mayor Asghar Khan with Lady Mayoress Robina Kosar.

He attended Cross Flats Park Primary School and Cockburn High School, before embarking on a career as a postman, which has lasted 30 years.

Since 2011, Coun Khan has represented the Burmantofts and Richmond Hill ward as a Labour councillor, serving on the city plans panel, various scrutiny and community committees, and more recently as a deputy executive member.

During his time as Lord Mayor, Coun Khan has chosen to support Leeds Hospitals Charity, with a particular focus on raising awareness and funds for renal and diabetes services.

LHC is the dedicated charity for Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Each year it provides an extra £5m in funding to make life easier for more than 20,000 staff working across our local NHS hospitals.

After paying tribute to NHS staff and key workers over the past year, Coun Khan said: “It is due to our efforts that we are able to see the hope we have needed for so long.

“I arrived in the UK the same day as Alton Towers opened and Liverpool won the league. My father met us at Heathrow Airport and took us up to Leeds. I was taken aback by the housing – the rows and rows of houses that looked exactly the same.

“How would I ever know which one of these houses was mine? How would I find my way home if I left the house, and what if I did get lost – I didn’t speak a word of English at the time – so how would I ask for help. I was really nervous.

“My father who worked at the foundry in Armley wanted me to achieve. I needed to catch up, so he spent part of his earnings on tuition for me. I owe my father a debt of gratitude for that.

“Living in Beeston, I was alarmed by how negatively my community was being presented and vilified because of the actions of a few – it was not something I recognised.

“The hostility was intense and awful. I even thought about leaving the area and the city. I now want to encourage others to stay, fight for their community and make a difference.

“The difference between the nervous 11-year-old immigrant boy and the proud Yorkshireman addressing you today is huge. It shows what you can achieve with the right support and help from family and friends.”

Leeds City Council leader James Lewis paid tribute, saying: “I am proud and privileged to move Coun Khan as the Lord Mayor of Leeds.

“All of us who know Asghar know how dedicated he is to his work. He puts so much work into this city.

“He is warmly well respected in his ward. It is testament to his hard work.”

Tory group whip Coun Dan Cohen said: “I am honoured and delighted to second the nomination. The next 12 months will see our city emerge from lockdown – I hope we do so like a butterfly from a chrysalis.

“I know he is a man of wit, warmth, charm and great patience. This will serve him well in the years ahead.”

Lib Dem whip Colin Campbell: “Those of us who sat through the recent nine-hour debate on the airport will know he showed great patience. Burmantofts is also currently in the process of gentrification. He has a feel for the modern city.”

MBI leader Robert Finnigan added: “It is with great pleasure the MBIs offer support to Coun Khan. We are probably the two most attractive grandads on Leeds City Council, two of the finest minds on plans panel, but the most unlikely link we share is that we were both postmen.”

“There is more that unites us than sets us apart. It is clear we are in reality are unified. All members of planet human.”

GSI leader Mark Dobson: “Sometimes we use ambition in this country as a bad thing, but it is a good thing.

“He is ambitious for his community, his ward and the city of Leeds, and those things have driven him forward. He will add a great deal of value to the role of lord mayor.”

Greens leader Coun David Blackburn: “He will be a good Lord Mayor and will do a wonderful job.”