New year's honour for Lancashire Labour group leader
The leader of the Labour opposition group on Lancashire County Council has received an OBE after being included in the new year’s honours list.
Azhar Ali has been recognised for services to the community in the North West.
The veteran politician, who represents the Nelson East division on the authority, said that the news had come “completely out of the blue”.
He first entered politics when he became mayor of Brierfield in Pendle, aged just 24 in the early 1990s.
That put him on the path to the borough council, where he found himself leading the authority in coalition with the Conservatives a decade later.
Some of the charitable work for which he has be honoured involves his association with the Henna Foundation, an organisation dedicated to strengthening Muslim families and particularly supporting Muslim women and combatting honour-based violence.
He also advised the Blair government on counter-terrorism and community safety in the wake of the 2005 London bombings.
Following a spell as chair of the now defunct North West Regional Assembly, he was elected to County Hall in 2013 and became leader of the Labour group after the party lost control of the authority in the 2017 local elections.
County Cllr Ali – who also stood as Labour’s candidate in the Pendle constituency in the 2015 and 2019 general elections – said that said that he was “humbled” that he had been nominated and selected for the honour.
“Ninety-nine percent of people don’t go into community and voluntary work for accolades, it’s because they want to make a difference.
“So I’m dedicating this to the people I serve, especially those who are struggling – the people who those in my position raise our voices for,” he said.
Expressing his thanks to the organisations and individuals with whom he works, County Cllr Ali added that he is not expecting – nor wanting – any deference in the often rambunctious debates at County Hall in light of his new status.
“It doesn’t matter that I’ve got a few letters after my name, I’m still the same person.”