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Bradford needs political reform, not ‘revenge’

by Irfan Ajeeb

Two years after the departure of maverick politician George Galloway from Bradford West, his ghost has never left this city.

After his demagogue-like performance in the 2012 by-election to defeat his Labour rival Imran Hussain, Galloway was rejected by the residents of Bradford in 2015 as an opportunist who mainly relied on his rhetoric’s on Palestine to further his own political ambitions at the expense of the ‘Muslim vote’. His allegiance to Bradford was always imaginary and did very little for the residents of Bradford West. The toxic ambience he and his supporters spread across the city, has now recovered to some extent. But his avid supporters (of the Respect Party) have never accepted his heavy defeat meted out by Labour’s newcomer Naz Shah.

Shah against all the odds and with very little political experience, became the MP for Bradford West and in the last two years she has been constantly targeted by Galloway’s bitter supporters.

image1Yesterday, former leader of the Respect Party, Salma Yaqoob announced to stand as an independent candidate in Bradford West. The Birmingham based former councillor, who contested for Parliamentary seats twice in 2005 and 2010 as a Respect Party candidate, lost out on both occasions to Labour.

Ironically, it appears that she is still strongly backed by many of Galloway’s supporters despite her resignation from the Respect Party in 2012.

Though Yaqoob was born in Bradford in 1971, her family moved to Birmingham when she was at a very young age and where she has lived most of her life.

Having lived in Birmingham most of her life, one wonders why Salma Yaqoob has thrown her hat into the ring for Bradford West? A supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and actively campaigning for Labour MEP for the West Midlands, Sion Simon, Yaqoob has for some unknown reasons decided to go against the Labour candidate despite herself wanting to join the Labour party.

Since Urban Echo broke the news yesterday afternoon, social media has gone into overdrive. Baroness Thornton of Manningham tweeted: “I think this is so disappointing. A once great women choosing to fight George Galloway’s revenge. #sad.”

Journalist Sunny Hundal tweeted: “Utterly bizarre and counter-productive for @SalmaYaqoob to stand against @nazshahbfd in Bradford West. Disappointed.”

Bradford resident Dermot Bolton tweeted: “Bizarre that progressive Muslim feminist @SalmaYaqoob has decided to stand against progressive Muslim feminist @nazshahbfd in #BradfordWest.”

Labour politician Harriet Harman tweeted: “What is @SalmaYaqoob thinking? Choosing to stand against amazing @nazshahbfd @UKLabour!”

The luxury about living in a democracy is that you can voice your opinion and of course anyone is free to contest elections. However, one has to be clear about their intentions as to what they hope to achieve for their electorate and surpass and improve on the actions and achievements of the previous elected members. What are Salma Yaqoob’s true intentions for contesting in Bradford West? Is she so distraught at the state of our city, that she feels she is the one to put things right or is it simply to further her own political ambitions?

Naz Shah on the other hand is not perfect but she has shown maturity and a willingness to learn the job. She has made mistakes but so have many seasoned and far more experienced politicians before her. Shah is a Bradford woman who has lived here all her life with her family. She feels the pulse of the city. Yaqoob may not feel that same pulse.

Since Shah’s election as an MP, two years ago, she is the only elected member in the House of Commons who has publicly taken on Quilliam, Inspire and the Henry Jackson Society.

She condemned Prevent in relation to how it demonises Muslims and played a pivotal role with regards to Islamophobia as the joint Chair of the Islamophobia APPG. The list goes on…

In addition to the above, Shah also faced death threats for raising her voice against the murder of Bradford woman Samia Shahid in Pakistan.

However, if Salma Yaqoob really wanted to exercise her democratic rights, she could have chosen a male Tory seat anywhere in the country as a Muslim feminist.

It is an open secret that the strongest supporters of Salma Yaqoob are those elements who belong to Respect and Gallowayism. Of course, the whole situation in Bradford’s ‘Wild Wild West’ is going to be fraught with uncertainties, volatility and empty rhetoric’s. It is hoped that the voters of Bradford West will use their judgement by carefully considering the candidate who could best serve their interests and bring the city back to stand up on its own feet socially and economically. Bradford needs politics of reform, not ‘revenge’ as Baroness Thornton stated.

Please note: Urban Echo tried to contact Salma Yaqoob but she was unavailable for comment


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