The West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury has a lot going for it. It has one of the oldest and most recognisable names in Rugby league. The ‘mill’ shopping centre is prosperous and home to some niche retailers. Its town centre has remained relatively intact, when compared to near neighbour Bradford.
Yet beneath the surface, there is a more sinister story. It involves a town with real issues of segregation along racial, political and faith divides.
The Press newspaper is run by publisher Danny Lockwood, a former amateur rugby league player. His publishing house also produces the popular league weekly newspaper, which reports on the sport of rugby league. He also wrote the ‘novel’ The Islamic republic of Dewsbury. I was going to pick up a copy, but found that Amazon also suggested I may like such titles as ‘Islam: A religion of Bigots’ and ‘Londonistan. Britain’s terror state from within, and decided better of it.
Some members from the Dewsbury community have approached Urban Echo directly, alleging that Lockwood uses his publishing organ to push a specific agenda based on his political beliefs, under the’ Ed lines’ column. The majority of the opinion pieces are the kind of thing you’d find in The Sun- right wing and patriotic, extolling the queen, demonising the EU and highlighting the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Dewsbury and neighbour Batley.
One of these columns, published on the 22nd April, referred to a shadowy cartel of Asian drug dealers, mentioning a few local residents although not explicitly linking them. These individuals may well be involved in illegal activities and if they are, The Press has justification to publish details. It also should contact the police with said evidence and see where the investigation is going.
After a complaint from an Asian resident about his victimization of the community, his reply was thus- “if he/she can tip us off to some serious white-English villains, or black, yellow, pink with green dots, I will investigate personally… Shall I nip over to one of those Asian havens of peace, equality, honest politics, religious tolerance and media transparency?”
I wanted to see and hear for myself whether the rumours I had been hearing from some residents over in Dewsbury about Lockwood’s publishing agenda, had any truth in them. Hence, I dialled his number and the conversation began.
Lockwood is a veteran in the publishing game and has thus far, been fairly successful with his publications. As I put it to him that I had been approached by people in Dewsbury, alleging that his publication has an agenda demonising the Muslim community, his response was swift: “To be honest, it doesn’t come as a surprise. I have been fighting these allegations for the last fifteen years and it is quite surprising that you have called me without withholding your number as most of my callers withhold their number whilst hurling abuse from the other side.
“For me it doesn’t matter what faith or colour you are. If you are involved in criminal activities, and we have the proof, we will report it. I have never targeted any specific community and I never will.”
It is very difficult to judge a person with one brief telephone conversation, but the tone of Lockwood’s comments seemed fairly reasonable and balanced. On the other hand, I am sure the Dewsbury area has its fair share of criminals of all creeds, just like any major urban conurbation. To suggest otherwise is either extreme naïveté or, it would appear, pushing an agenda by suggesting all crime is at the hands of ethnic group.
As much as I am trying to understand Lockwood and at the same time trying to put the dynamics of Dewsbury’s political and cultural complexities into perspective, it doesn’t help by reading his latter statement. ‘Asia’ is a fairly large continent as things go and to suggest every country within it is lacking “peace, equality, honest politics, religious tolerance and media transparency” is akin to saying that all of Europe is full of ‘peace, equality, religious tolerance and media transparency”. And we all know that isn’t true!
This isn’t an attack on Lockwood as such. He is perfectly entitled to his views, and he clearly has the financial means to broadcast them. It’s more a plea for some common humanity in towns and cities throughout West Yorkshire. Instead of seeing different communities as the ‘enemy’, who are vilified either directly or indirectly, can we not see the positives these different elements bring to our communities? The exchange of ideas, opinions, wisdom. We currently live under a government which clearly cares little for the working person, be they a migrant, white British or British born Pakistani/Indian/Bangladeshi.