March 1, 2017

Ravi Govindia – a champion of local politics

Ravi Govindia – a champion of local politics

Politics is a special business, says Peter Bingle. There are many players who are eminently forgettable. Ravi Govindia is not one of them. His CBE is richly deserved.

Yesterday was a special day. Ravi Govindia has been awarded his CBE. Never has an award for services to local government been more deserved. It symbolises the new politics …

Ravi and his family were thrown out of Uganda in 1972 by Idi Amin. They arrived in the United Kingdom thanks to Edward Heath and despite the opposition of the Labour Party. Living in Plymouth Ravi became a bus conductor. If only there were photos …

Ravi was first elected to Wandsworth Council in May 1982. We were already friends. He had no idea where Putney was and I had no idea where Tooting was. Over the months and years that followed we discovered the different parts of Wandsworth which make the borough so special.

Ravi was always a very special kind of Tory. He was never tribal, even more surprising considering his Ugandan pedigree! Every issue was analysed in detail and his speeches at Committee and Council were always analytical and forensic, often to the despair of Paul Beresford and Eddie Lister. The only time he ever voted against the whip was following (and caused by) one of my more radical speeches!

For several years Ravi and I shared a flat in Earlsfield. These were special days. I essentially became a Hindu. I loved the experience of meeting great people from a community that I had never had the privilege to meet before. More importantly Ravi was a great cook. To this day I can cook brown rice to perfection!

Ravi’s election as Leader came about from a wonderful concatenation of issues, the most important of which was Eddie Lister becoming Boris Johnson’s Chief of Staff. Suddenly Ravi had his chance to demonstrate just how special he is. Serendipity is a wonderful thing!

In today’s politics there is so much debate about race and opportunity. Many of the so-called leaders of the minority community are hopeless and wouldn’t be there if they were white. Ravi is the exception that proves the rule. He is one of the leading council leaders in the whole of the UK.  The fact that he comes from Uganda merely adds to his narrative.

I plead guilty to being biased about Ravi Govindia. He is my best friend and I love him dearly but I have been around long enough (too long?) to recognise somebody very special. In the new politics being espoused by Theresa May there is nobody better suited to deliver her agenda at the local level. Ravi epitomises one nation Toryism at a time when there is so much bitterness and division in politics.

Politics is a special business. There are many players who are eminently forgettable. Ravi is not one of them. My mum loved him and she was right to do so.

Rarely has a CBE been so richly deserved.

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Peter Bingle
Peter Bingle
Peter is the Founder of Terrapin Communications. With a career in politics and communications that has spanned almost four decades, he is one of the country's leading public affairs practitioners. His career has seen him advise many top companies, including McDonald’s, HSBC, L’Oreal, Permira, Motorola, Camelot, Rolls Royce & Kellogg's.
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