Untold story of the Labor candidate who stood against Boris Johnson and almost won
Ali Milani scared Boris Johnson in the 2019 general election and came closer to defeating a sitting prime minister than any other candidate in more than 100 years
Image: IAN VOGLER/DAILY MIRROR)
Three years ago, in the hopeful summer of 2019, Ali Milani caused an uproar in Boris Johnson’s parliamentary seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
In the David and Goliath moment, thousands of young people turned up at Milani’s rallies and went door to door to help overthrow the prime minister.
Milani was everything local MP Boris wasn’t. For one, she’s from the area and was raised by a single mother on a nearby social estate.
“I want to hold Boris accountable on behalf of the country,” he told me.
On December 12, Milani came the closest to defeating a sitting prime minister in more than 100 years. Boris Johnson was concerned enough to panic on election night. The extreme right was so concerned that they sent death threats to Milani.
In the end, the 25-year-old contender fell short by 7,000 votes – a pattern repeated with far larger deficits across the country. Milani won 18,000 votes, Johnson 25,000.
IAN VOGLER/DAYS MIRROR)
“It was a romantic story,” he admits now. “The country needed to know that a Uxbridge immigrant son of a working-class single mother could beat an Oxbridge Etonian born to govern.
“People had to know that this is possible in our democracy.”
Three years later, our lives are so different that it’s hard to think back to that moment. Milani lost his beloved father Hassan to Covid in Iran during the first wave.
As we speak this time, Zoom is over because he’s recovering from the virus and is still testing positive.
What does he think would be different in the parallel universe where Milani won?
“If Boris hadn’t been there, the coronavirus would have been handled better,” he says. “Any Tory leader would have handled the pandemic better.
“At least there wouldn’t have been scandal after scandal. How many people died because they couldn’t pull themselves together?
Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
“It is a great tragedy. He was the worst guy at the worst time. We really needed a serious person. Boris is a brilliant campaigner but he is quite incompetent to govern.” After losing the election, Milani went to the States to work on Bernie Sanders’ campaign but he is now back home in Uxbridge and has Boris in his sights again.
“I want to contribute to public life,” he says. “I would like to stand again. Will they have me is more the question. Hopefully.”
Whether Johnson will still be prime minister or even still MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip is another question.
“I think Boris expects to keep going and running but they could replace him,” he says. “That makes him rather dangerous. He’s dying to throw meat at his base.”
Next week Milani is releasing a book about his candidacy, The Unlikely Candidate – What Losing an Election Taught Me About Changing Politics.
It recounts his mother’s efforts to put food on the table and how his Iranian father was never granted a visa to enter the UK, while Milani was not allowed to visit Iran.
As he says, in another parallel universe where the Tories were in power when he came to the UK with his mother and sister, “I would probably be in Rwanda.”
It was his father who persuaded him to write the book when they met in Istanbul just before Hassan would become an early victim of Covid.
Hassan wanted his son to tell people what he learned from his failures and the hope he found during his campaign.
“My shoulders felt so heavy on election night,” says Milani. “It was hard to tell people to hope. But the incredible energy that came out of it helped me get through the pain of defeat.”
If Johnson’s majority looked shaky in 2019, it is shaky now. Recent polls suggest the prime minister’s 15 percent majority is ripe for a tumble.
Constituency changes will add a more work-friendly Northolt and the new Elizabeth Line service is likely to attract young commuters.
There are plenty of tricky local issues for a austerity prime minister – including the swimming pool and the library. And some of his constituents still remember his disdain for them as “picaninnies” and “mailboxes.”
“In 2019 we needed the hopeful story of beating Boris,” says Milani. “But it turns out we actually need that hope even more in 2022.”
There is one revealing detail in his book. His father Hassan, who saw the Shah exiled from Iran, used to tease his son by saying, “My generation went out and overthrew a king, what will you do?”
A challenge that the son took literally. “Maybe the parallel universe will come true if the polls are right,” says Milani. “Maybe it’s time for hope again.”
He smiles. “If Boris is still there, at least we can walk under the slogan ‘I told you so’.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/untold-story-labour-candidate-who-27314684 Untold story of the Labor candidate who stood against Boris Johnson and almost won