After a four-year wait on a council housing waiting list, Mustafa Korel moved to Dalston in the early 1980s when he began his long and colourful journey as a community activist.
As a long-term Hackney resident, Korel is now considered by some to be a popular contender to be the Mayor of Hackney in the forthcoming local elections in May 2014.
Korel officially announced his decision to run as an Independent candidate at an event hosted by community campaign group, Hackney First, late last week.
Korel is a founding member of the grassroots organisation that supports independent political candidates and runs a range of community outreach programmes across the borough.
The Hackney resident is also a well-established community leader and vice chair of Hackney Unites, as well as being a trustee of the Turkish Cypriot Community Association.
In an exclusive interview with ELL, Mustafa said: “I hope to re-engage Hackney residents in politics and re-integrate local communities into the council chamber.”
He continued: “The local community is the ultimate priority and I hope to represent those from the wider Hackney community and engage people at every level of democracy.”
Korel went on to criticise the current Labour-run council arguing that there is “a clear split ” between Hackney council and the community. Adding, “which we urgently need to bridge.”
So far, Korel is the only person to have officially announced he would be a rival candidate to Jules Pipe, the Labour mayor of Hackney. But he is keen to distance himself from the current mayor: “Unlike Pipe, I will not be using my position to select candidates [for council positions]. Instead, all of Hackney First’s 21 independent candidates will be selected in open primaries which are open to the Hackney public”.
Korel was also vocal about what he called the “current monopoly of political power in the Labour-run administration” and said that if he is elected, he plans to “open up the council for debate and reintroduce local knowledge and expertise into Hackney politics”.
He drew attention to the fact Hackney has been dubbed a “rotten borough” with a one-party administration by the Electoral Reform Society.
Despite his drive for independent candidacy, Korel previously ran as a Green candidate for the Hackney Central ward last April. But since then, Korel has left the Green Party and is eager to distance himself from traditional party politics.
When asked about his decision to leave, Korel said: “Politics is something very personal for me and the tribal nature of party politics means it is often more focused on gaining power than working together in the interests of the local community”.
Korel’s community experience has also informed his decision to run for mayor. He oversaw the training of 1,600 young people in political workshops and ran the Unreported Crime Project initiative for young people across North London.
The new Independent candidate said that his top priorities will be housing, unemployment and democratic accountability. In his words, “Hackney is still one of the most unequal boroughs in London and it is time that we prioritised social goals over corporate ones”.
There is more information about his campaign here.