Lambeth Council elected a mayor who is said to be the first openly HIV-positive one in the UK last night.  

Oval ward Cllr Philip Normal said he was “incredibly honoured” to take on the role during a live broadcast annual council meeting, the first virtual meeting Lambeth has ever had.  

The Brixton business owner dedicated his acceptance speech to his chosen charity the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports LGBTQ+ people who are homeless or living in a hostile environment, and to frontline workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.  

And Cllr Normal said he hoped his election would inspire those living with HIV, while the stigma around the virus needed to be “smashed once and for all”.  

Speaking after his election was approved, he said: “I’ll be honest, this is not entirely how I envisaged it happening, but I’m grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make this evening possible.” 

He thanked the outgoing mayor, Cllr Ibrahim Dogus, whose “life should inspire us all”.  

“From his arrival in the UK as a refugee to becoming a successful businessman and campaigner and now dedicated public servant.  

“Ibrahim’s story is a reminder of the power of welcome, that if given a chance, those who come to our country can contribute so much to our communities. Ibrahim, thanks for all you do,” he said. 

Cllr Normal thanked his ward colleagues and his partner Matthew for his “love and support”. 

He said: “I moved to Lambeth eight years ago and it is one of the best places in London to live, work, and visit, with diverse and resilient communities, with each of our town centres having its unique character and history.” 

The new mayor said he has supported the Albert Kennedy Trust for his whole adult life.  

“It recognises Lambeth’s queer history and the fact that we are the borough with the highest proportion of LGBTQ+ residents in the entire country.  

“The Albert Kennedy Trust, founded in 1989, helps young LGBTQ+ people with housing issues, develop life skills, find emergency accommodation, stay safe in a crisis, and access specialist support. 

“Homelessness disproportionately affects young LGBTQ+ people, with 24 per cent of young homeless people identifying as LGBTQ+. 

“77 per cent of all the young people that AKT work with believe that coming out at home was the main factor in causing their homelessness.  

“It is vital that they are supported in an environment that is inclusive and celebrates their identities in order to improve their life outcomes. 

“With the lockdown in place there has been a rise in domestic violence, not all young LGBTQ+ people have a safe place to call home. 

“When they want to escape it is more important than ever that the AKT can help them find safety.” 

Cllr Normal said he hoped speaking out about his HIV status would show people living with it how much they can achieve.  

“I’ve spoken before about my HIV status, and it has been suggested that I’m the first openly positive mayor in the country.  

“I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, it is something none of us should feel pride in. 

“Rather it highlights the shame and stigma that has been associated with HIV for far too long.  

“Being open about your status is an individual choice, and nobody should feel obliged to reveal their status.  

“But I hope that by choosing to do so, I can show that there is no bar to what people living with HIV can achieve and that we have to smash the stigma around HIV once and for all,” he said.  

He paid tribute to those on the front line in the NHS, “the nurses, the doctors, the ambulance crews, and all those that are giving so much at this unprecedented time”.  

Cllr Claire Holland, who nominated her ward colleague and “very dear friend”, praised him for being an “avid campaigner for health equality” and a “tireless advocate for the homeless”.

“You will see that the flamboyance, the snappy suits, and all-round artistry bely a passion for justice and a dogged determination to achieve it.  

“That is Philip’s gift, to bring colour and joy as he and we go about our business in this serious and uncertain world,” she said.  

Vassall ward Cllr Annie Gallop, who was elected as deputy mayor, was described by colleagues as “the finest of the finest” by her ward colleagues.