Saturday, 17 September 2011

...and it rained

We gather, all looking a little ragged, tousled, perhaps a mite hung-over. Tom’s late with the leaflets, the clouds rolling across the Bradford skies are that dark, steel grey colour – the colour of rain.

Another weekend, another delivery of leaflets – this time with the headline screaming; “union bosses on the rates”. Telling the good folk of Bradford how their council prefers to fund Labour’s mates in the trades unions instead of keeping open libraries, swimming pools and centres for disabled adults.

The price of politics in a place like Bradford – opaque, secretive decision-making where Labour leaders gather in private cabal to spend huge sums, great wads of other people’s cash, on their favoured schemes, their preferences and, of course, on making sure important Labour-voting blocs are protected.

And I guess those Labour-voting blocs don’t include the old lady in Denholme who wouldn’t have a library had not the Town Council and local volunteers taken over running it. Those blocs exclude a different woman now denied the chance to swim close to home as Labour close down the last swimming pool in Bradford’s inner city.

But those blocs do include town hall union bosses. So the union bosses get their money.

We gather, smiling at a little gallows humour, at the prospects of further years of deadening Labour rule in our great city. A return to those years – I call them the “years of complaint” – when the City’s Labour rulers admitted to no power in running the City, moaned about how government elsewhere was the cause of our problems and create a self-image of supplication. The image of a broken, failed city.

I glance at the back of the leaflet. “Positive Bradford” it proclaims – let’s talk the City up, focus on our strengths, on the exciting things that happen in business, in the arts and among our citizens. A message the City needs but, I fear, a message that will be drowned out by Labour’s obsession with victim status – wallowing in the deprivation as if it were some badge of achievement. A City whose leader proclaims with, it seems, every public announcement that he represents one of England’s poorest communities.

An admission of failure – of the pointlessness of Labour’s political mission, a drear, negative and depressing mission to drag us down to a lowest common denominator. Snidely looking at successful places in the City, suggesting that they succeed at the expense of other places and must be punished – services closed, funding withdrawn.

And as we deliver those leaflets – a promise of a City that takes command of its own destiny, that stops looking elsewhere for a salvation that never comes, that smiles a little. We deliver to back-to-back houses accessed down damp stone-lined passages leading to a little oasis of colour and hope. We drop leaflets into the letter boxes of the semi-detached suburban homes, some cared for and loved, some showing signs of the economic struggle that ordinary people face. And we call at the old folks flats and bungalows filled with people looking back on a tough life lived well.

We see a bit of a great city. We get a glimpse of its variety – Pakistani mums, the broad Irish-looking faces of older people, the Polish shop and the black man in a suit stood on the corner seemingly uncertain as to whether to cross. A variety that has always been there, that’s part of the City’s success. But now, trapped in the weasel words of “community cohesion” and “diversity”, it is a variety our leaders see as a problem, something to be managed, worried about, endlessly debated and turned into strategies that serve only to justify a purposeless intervention into the lives of ordinary people.

We delivered those leaflets, we met people who smiled and we had our little say about the way our City should be run.

And it rained.


1 comment:

Lysistrata said...

My word Simon, but you write well.

I can almost breathe the air and touch the damp stone where you were delivering those leaflets.

Next time I'm back in Bradford, I shall introduce myself and you and Mrs. Cooke will maybe agree to have a drink on me.