Monday, 9 April 2012

Understanding Bradford...a few tips for London-based journalists

Goit Stock Falls, Cullingworth
I read a great deal about Bradford in the national papers since 29th March (I gather something happened). And I've seen a load of nonsense spouted by assorted clever people of right and left who, if they've ever been to Bradford, haven't got past Manningham's terraces in that visit.

By way of illustration (and to be fair this one is rather better written than many others) here's David Goodhart in Prospect Magazine. I believe Mr Goodhart is something important in some grand think tank or something like that - which of course makes his opinion of my City so much more significant than mine:

Even more than George Galloway, a young man called Naweed Hussain is the key to the Bradford West by-election upset. I spent a couple of hours with him last summer when I went to Bradford to write a piece “ten years on” from the 2001 riots. He was an angry and thwarted man; angry not so much about joblessness or discrimination (though he did complain about a “brown ceiling” at the council and university) but about the control of minority representation in the Labour party by people from the Jats and Bains clans from the Mirpur region of Kashmir, from where so many of Britain’s 1.2m Pakistanis originate.

Now let me explain something - it really is crucial to understanding Bradford. The Pakistani muslim population is a minority in all but seven of the City's wards. There are five more where that population are a significant minority - more than a third of the electorate.  Every other ward has a white (sort of christian I guess) majority.

To understand Bradford, look at the picture above and ask yourself what kind of place has a wonderful waterfall like that? Not urban for sure - two thirds of Bradford is rural (you never hear that on the BBC do you) and the District contains such iconic symbols of Yorkshire as Ilkey Moor, Top Withens and Saltaire.

Yet each year journalists troop up to the City (or more often make a couple of phone calls while staying safely in their well-appointed home near Hampstead Heath or some other trendy part of London). And talk the most complete tosh about the place based on their stupid belief that it's all terraced, Victorian housing and tatty council blocks. A sort of Liverpool built from stone.

I lose count of the times I've said this to journalists. It's not that the BBC, Channel 4 and so forth haven't had the briefing. It's just that the City has to conform to their London prejudice - poor, Northern, Asian and riot-strewn.

None of this is true - for sure, the City has problems. Too few jobs, too many poor schools, what Anne Cryer called the importing of poverty from South Asia and a City Centre that simply isn't good enough. But talking about Pakistani clan politics as if it was the City's problem rather than the Labour Party's problem doesn't cut the mustard as far I as I'm concerned.

So please my friends in the press, next time you're up give me a call and I'll give you a tour - I'll take you to Goit Stock, to Manningham Park, to Thornton village and to Apperley Bridge. If you've time we can pop up to Baildon, visit Bingley market and eat pie and peas in Keighley. Maybe then you start to understand Bradford and to set aside your prejudice, your stereotype of our great City.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you know Liverpool has the 2nd most listed buildings outside of London?