It has been almost six months since the people of Bradford West placed their trust in me and voted for me. What a journey I’ve been on since!
On a personal level, it has been a bit of a roller coaster and people in Westminster weren’t kidding when they said the first 6 weeks will be just induction and settling, including setting up two new offices and recruiting staff.
Locally, I am pleased to report that we now a have a full team of staff who are working hard on behalf of the residents of Bradford West. On average, the local office are dealing with more than 125 constituent queries on a weekly basis.
Very early on following my election, I had my first experience of something very international yet very local. Nothing could have prepared me for grappling with the idea of any local women taking their children to Syria and the media interest that followed suit. It is still something that troubles me and I can imagine it will be something I will never be able to reconcile.
My interest in this issue of radicalisation, extremism, Islamaphobia and policing, influenced my decision to put myself forward for the role which I am enjoying immensely, as it is challenging me and my own learnings whilst I also have the chance to hold the government to account on issues, particularly around extremism, which is one of the bigger issues we are grappling with as a country including the rise of Deash.
I also had the honour of being a member of the Welfare Bill Committee which gave me an opportunity to raise the voice of my constituents around the unacceptable changes, particularly the welfare cap and tax credits that this government wants to bring in. The cuts proposed will hit those in need the most and tax credits are a hand up, not a hand out!
Some of the other areas of work I am now also involved with are around human rights issues. Only this morning, I have agreed to support the work of an international charity around the legality of the use of drones. I also continue to contribute regularly to discussions around humanitarian issues within Palestine and Kashmir and am I committed to keeping that dialogue going and raising awareness.
As a feminist with a keen interest around the issues of violence against women, I will be supporting discussions and facilitating meetings in relation to women in India and Pakistan as well as here in the UK.
Some of the groups I will be working with include Muslim Women’s Network UK, Southall Black Sisters, Women of the World and the Cortson Review.
Around local issues, I have been meeting regularly in Bradford with all those involved in key issues. For example, I have met with the Leader of the Council no less than six times on issues including education, development, the Syrian refugee crisis and employment/business development. Obviously, we still have more work to do in these areas and I am keen to see rapid improvement.
I have met the head of the LEP and we are exploring development opportunities in the city going forward, especially with the new Westfield shopping complex now open.
I have developed good working relationships with the police and the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and I am regularly updated on issues pertinent to Bradford West.
I am also in regular dialogue with our other local service providers and have meetings scheduled with the hospitals trust and higher educational institutes so we can work together for the betterment of our communities. The police, hospitals, schools, university and colleges are all key service providers that are under increasing pressure, and it’s imperative that we try to continue to be innovative and support front line staff, whilst striving to provide the best possible services in Bradford.
Work aside, it’s been an interesting few months. Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the summer recess due to illness and a spell in hospital. I had lots planned which could not happen, in particular, catching up with people locally.
Although it’s only been 6 months, it feels much longer especially when my youngest child is now stringing together long sentences and having proper conversations. I also now have my daughter in secondary school. It’s also been a huge honour to win a national award for overcoming adversity and making it on to the ‘Most Influential British Asians Power List’ in such a short time into my job made it all the more humbling.
Now with the leadership contest over, I’m looking forward to the next six months and I am confident of making further progress and building upon the work I am already doing.
Should people need any support on issues, please do get in touch. We have three weekly surgeries and our contact details are:
West Riding House, 41 Cheapside, Bradford, BD1 4HR, Tel 01274 725171, or email me Naz.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter for further updates @nazshahbfd