At last night’s Brent Council AGM, tributes were given to Cllr Tayo Oladapo, who died tragically earlier this year. He was 34.
I had registered to give my own tribute, but wasn’t called to speak for some strange reason. What I would have said is this…
Tayo was one of the most genuine people I have ever met, with a smile that could light up any room, and eyes that were full of hope, and joy, and warmth.
One day, when he had kindly come to Wembley Central to help me with canvassing, he told me the story of how he’d come to the UK several years earlier, unable to speak a word of English, and in difficult circumstances.
He told me – and this I will never forget – that he’d even spent some time homeless in the ward I represent – Wembley Central.
Anyone who knows me will know that homelessness is the tragedy I care most about, so I found this revelation particularly sad and moving.
But Tayo had that rare and underrated gift in life and in politics – people liked him. Because there were no games with Tayo. He was who he was. Sincere, gentle, and honest.
In part because of this – but also because of his sheer courage – he fought his way up to represent the Kilburn Ward with distinction from 2010 to 2016. In those years, he helped so many people – so many more people than perhaps any of the rest of us ever will.
I am sad that I did not get to know him better. I am sure I would have learnt a lot from him about how to be a better human being. But still, in his tragically short life, he gave so much to so many people that I know he will live on in their hearts.
Tayo is the second Labour councillor we have lost to an early death since 2014. Dan Filson fell last year, too. Both of them were, above all, profoundly decent men – a rare quality in politicians.
It’s up to the remaining councillors to honour their memory by putting the people before the politics.
Goodbye Tayo. You are irreplaceable.