Friday 30 March 2012

Why we voted Respect in Bradford West

There are a myriad reasons why 18,341 people voted for George Galloway in last nights by-election - but here is a few of them:

The Labour candidate took his vote for granted, and simply did not connect with the people. George took the electorate seriously.

Mr Hussein (Labour) refused to take part in hustings alongside George Galloway, and the only showing he made on the BBC was pretty poor. Labour should never have appeared to be so defensive if they expected to win.

Mr Hussein has been deputy labour leader during a time when the party has implemented unpopular cuts in the local community. He has been punished for the perception of our local governments lack of opposition to the Tory Party's cuts agenda.

The national Labour party does not look like a credible opposition to the Tories. Ed Miliband needs to represent and defend ordinary working people.

Within the Muslim community, issues such as Palestine and the Arab Spring really do matter. The Respect Party understood this.

Bradford has a strong anti-war tradition. The previous MP Marsha Singh was popular (increasing his Labour majority in 2010) because he voted against the war in Iraq and against spending on Trident. George Galloway was the only candidate who was clear on these issues.

Many people knew Abu-bakr Rauf, who died so tragically last week. He was a kind, gentle, dedicated activist for Respect, Palestine and local community matters. Many voted to make his last wishes come true.

Ultimately, In Bradford West, we voted because of a lack of trust in the all of 3 major parties. The Tory party  lost more votes than Labour did. (they received 12,000 votes in 2010 and were down to just over 2000 last night)

Labour Party analyse that claimed people voted for George because of his big brother status is an insult to the integrity of the Bradford voters. Galloway has many flaws, and may well be accused of being a 'popularist' but at least he also espouses principles that ring true with the principles of the people of Bradford.

The first time I was arrested at Faslane Nuclear Base, George Galloway was arrested alongside me. I just don't see many politicians with those sorts of convictions any more.

Let this be a wake up call to all the parties. We don't expect perfection, but we do expect our Members of Parliament to have a serious commitment to issues of justice, equality and peace! We will now do our duty to hold George Galloway to account. Bradford's political map changed last night, and so will the make up of the city council in May's local elections. Respect candidates will clearly deal out heavy damage to all the three parties. They have got to learn to listen to their electorate and never take us for granted.

Monday 26 March 2012

'Come Dine With Me': Cameron's sickening little secret

The attempt to present a wholesome image to the electorate may well have fooled some, but now the secrets of Cameron's dinner party should alert the world to what this man and his party is really about. At the family table, the financial donors he sucks up to include bankers, climate change deniers and oil magnates.

No wonder he initially didn't want to disclose his dining secrets. No wonder he avoided the clamour of the House of Commons later in the afternoon.

The Tory Party presently in power has never been convincing when it proclaimed 'we're all in it together'. It is the party of the rich and powerful. It is the policy maker of the 1%.

At a time of increasing government sponsored austerity - the Tories still had the gall to cut the top rate of income tax and, to add insult to injury, it lowered corporation tax at the same time. To help out its chums who have continuously failed to pay the full amount of corporation tax, the government have kindly even lowered the amount big business will have to pay (though I'd be happy if banks like Barclay's actually paid 24% as opposed to the 2.8% it got away with last year!) We need tax justice, not tax breaks and tax havens.

This is not likely to happen judging by the company Mr Cameron is keeping up in his 'little flat' above Downing Street. Let's not keep waiting for the crumbs that fall from their tables - it's time to upturn them instead!

Abu-bakr Rauf - Rest In Peace.

The news of Abu-bakr's sudden death has been one of the hardest things our city has had to cope with for many, many years. In his short life, he managed to do so much and was able to touch so many lives with his gentleness and his determination to work for peace and justice.

At 28, he leaves behind his remarkable wife, and a beautiful baby girl, who turned 1 a few days after his death of a sudden heart attack in the car park of the Mumtaz restaurant.

We went there the day after he died, and hundreds came to lay flowers and express their shock and sorrow. George Galloway spoke eloquently, as did Nafees, but it was hard not to cry when his wife Kauser spoke. Many had come from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, not just from the Bradford group, but from all over the North of England.

I had first met him during the bombing of Gaza in 2008. He had already been involved in the Stop the War Coalition, but the cause of Palestine became hugely important in his life, and he went on to be heavily involved in the 'Viva Palestina' convoys before becoming the chair the Bradford PSC group. It came as no surprise to me as it emerged that 'Palestine' was his last word.

At 20, he had been a founder member of the Respect Party. It was while working tirelessly for George Galloway's election as the Bradford West MP that Abu-bakr died. He never ceased in campaigning for the causes he believed in. He will always remain an inspiration to all of us who had the privilege of knowing him.

He was always welcome at Desmond Tutu House, and was a model Muslim. He often commented on and encouraged my blogging.  It is was his gentleness, kindness and dedication that will be my lasting memories of this extraordinary man of principle. Abu-bakr - rest in peace - God willing we will meet again on the other side.

Bradford's glorious weekend!

The launch of the 'City Park' in the heart of Bradford was a joy to behold. Tens of thousands of people came to enjoy the fountains and the firework show. I really hope that Westfield had its spies out, as they would have realised that Bradford is a force to be reckoned with, and is a great place to invest in.

But the event was wonderfully Bradfordian for a number of reasons. The first was that hundreds of folk came down to protest about the Odeon building. Most people were baffled by the local governments decision to 'shield' the Odeon and its towers from view. The sheeting however provided an excellent screen on which to project some wonderful messages of support for the much loved building - a typical bit of Bradfordian imagination!

The other highlight of the day was the opening of the 'Handmade' shop in the old Brown and Muff's department store. It includes a retail outlet for local artists and a great meeting place for Bradford folk, called the 'Picnic Parlour'. This initiative of the 'Bradford People's Centre' showcases the need for a public space for gathering. Ever since the market space of the wool exchange closed well over a decade ago, there has not been a free meeting up point in the city centre. At long last that has been rectified.

It is Bradford's people that make it such a great place to be, and to see us out in force, in our multicultural beauty, made me remember how proud I am of this city. God Bless Bradford! Let's go from strength to strength.

Friday 2 March 2012

Make Britain Bradfordian

Well, part one has been and gone, and it wasn't quite the end of the world for Bradford that some predicted. I quite enjoyed it, and, like most people, saw it through the lens of 'fly on the wall' media style. I don't think it portrayed Bradford in a terrible light at all - in fact, what we saw was eight very different people, working things out as they went along. I know some of them, and I like them.

There are obvious weaknesses that are easy to spot. As a programme, it fails to look at the complexity of Bradford life, particularly its history and economics, but that is not what the programme makers are about. They are more interested in the interpersonal issues that arrive in such a city, and their programme does touch on these issues quite well.

It also awkwardly kept going on about the city being 'the most segregated in the country' - and that is such a weak stereo type. At least it allowed me and my Muslim/Chinese/Polish/Bulgarian friends to chuckle to away to ourselves. The programme makers went for difference, but most of Bradford is made up of commonalities - we all try to get by, and most of us are better at getting on with our neighbours than the outside world recognises.

I don't like the line that the participants unwittingly allowed themselves to be 'used' by Channel 4. I think they are all giving it their best shot - and allowing their flaws to be exposed so that others might do some learning. I think those Bradfordians are making me proud to be part of a city working out the strengths and problems that diversity brings to modern Britain. It is flawed but real.

We are all slowly learning to find our shared humanity amongst a capitalist economy that endlessly tries to divide us.