By Irfan Ajeeb
The Bradford Labour party never fails to amaze me.
Bradford, still recovering from the George Galloway era of political madness in the city, almost fell back into that murky age by selecting a former member of his failed Respect party. Galloway, along with his supporters were very critical of the Labour Party and specifically targeted sitting local councillors in the city, mostly on social media during his Bradford West by-election campaign in 2012.
One of his main supporters and a very vocal critic of the Bradford Labour Party was Nasreen Khan (known then as Naz Kahn). Along with Galloway’s other ardent followers including Chamber’s Solicitors and others involved with the recently shut down firm, the Bradford Labour Party was painted as a corrupt party with incompetent councillors.
It was exactly that rhetoric Galloway used throughout his campaign as well as pulling on the emotional chords of Iraq and Syria, in which he eventually won the by-election against Labour’s Imran Hussain and on the wave of his success and popularity, the Respect Party achieved the election of five councillors.
In 2013, the five Respect party councillors quit the party, accusing the MP of defamation and a lack of transparency. Alyas Karmani, Mohammed Shabbir, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Faisal Khan and the Respect deputy group leader, Ruqayyah Collector, were angry after Galloway accused them of trying to destabilise Respect in the city by “openly conniving” with his former secretary, Aisha Ali Khan, and a Metropolitan police officer, Afiz Khan, who were at the time to stand trial for data protection offences.
Their party leader Salma Yaqoob also distanced herself from Galloway in 2012 after he made controversial comments on rape. It was indeed an end to an extremely toxic era in Bradford politics.
It was inevitable that Galloway’s fake promises and empty rhetoric would eventually become exposed and he ultimately lost his next election in devastating fashion to Naz Shah in 2015. But was it the end?
The now ‘independent’ councillors, who were also once paid members of the Labour Party, were left in limbo. A few of them voiced their secret desire to go back to Labour. Mohammed Shabbir was welcomed back by the Party. Ishtiaq Ahmed was not. The others decided not to try and went back to their day jobs.
Shabbir’s inclusion in to the Labour party raised a few eyebrows especially when the Labour Party vowed not to entertain any former member that went against them during the Galloway campaign. This soft side of the party gave others hope too. It gave hope to Nasreen Khan. For me it was sheer frustration. Will the Bradford Labour Party ever learn?
As you can imagine, upon hearing Miss Khan’s selection for the ‘safe’ Labour council seat in Bradford’s Little Horton Ward, I could barely comprehend what was happening. Are the Labour party so blind? Do they not remember the battering they took from Galloway and his supporters? This should be about principles and political convictions. You can’t chose one party one week, and then jump ship to another party purely because there are better opportunities for you to land a seat. This is called ‘opportunism’… something Galloway mastered and now his political lackeys are following suit.
Nasreen Khan was one of Galloway’s main allies.
So, Labour’s decision to ban Miss Khan is very good news for Bradford’s political landscape. Her candidacy rightly received widespread condemnation after her posts, written in 2012, came to light in which she claimed there were “worse people in Hitler in this world”, that “Jews have reaped the rewards of playing victims” and asking: “What have the Jews done good in this world”.
Susan Hinchcliffe, the leader of Bradford council, later said that no one who had seen Ms Khan’s posts “can fail to be appalled by them… such comments have no place in our society”.
Absolutely no place in our society indeed!