One direction

Glenys ThorntonGlenys Thornton on why her home city of Bradford deserves proper government support

I am very sad not to be able to offer my contribution to a Lords debate today about my beloved Bradford, as I have to be away from Westminister.

Bradford is a great city, and also one beset by some very serious challenges. A great heritage, it was on the right side during the Civil War when the town was garrisoned for the Parliamentarians and in 1642 was unsuccessfully attacked by Royalist forces from Leeds. It is the birthplace of the Independent Labour Party in 1893, which helped to found the Labour Party we have today. The City of JB Priestley, Fredrick Delius and David Hockney and, most recently, Zayn Malik – one fifth of the boy band One Direction. Bradford is famous for its mills, hills and bluntness; and the National Media Museum. It is also the curry capital of Britain.

Bradford is a city that has welcomed and absorbed successive waves of migrants and refugees. Thousands of Irish workers in nineteenth century, Jewish refugees from Russian pogroms, Poles, Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans after the Second World War (and again more recently), and of course waves of Commonwealth immigrants from the Caribbean, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who were welcomed to work in our mills and hospitals, and drive our buses. Again more recently, we have absorbed refugees from Somalia and other war-torn places.

That is why Bradford was recognised as a 'City of Sanctuary' in November 2010. It is "a place where a broad range of local organisations, community groups and faith communities, as well as local government are publicly committed to welcoming and including people seeking sanctuary." An example of this was Bradford's purchase of the Carlton Hostel building in 1939 part of a Kindertransport scheme, made possible through donations from both Bradford's Jewish community and non-Jews.

I am proud to be a Bradfordian today, as ever. True, we are this noisy, quarrelsome, poor in many places, city with huge challenges; but we are also a rich and vibrant city. Bradford needs a Labour government, to recognise our richness and potential, to value our people.  

We do not need Michael Gove allowing dubious Free Schools to take much needed resources from our Children. We do not need Eric Pickles to keep bleeding the city of much needed funds to score a political point because Bradfordians had the good sense long ago to reject him as their Council Leader. We do not need the patronising support of Prime Minister Cameron for food banks which everyone in Bradford knows should not be necessary.

Bradford’s current Council are fighting every inch of the way to improve the city, restore its industry, encourage innovation, keep its Children’s Centres, grow jobs, and develop the city centre. They deserve government support.

Baroness Glenys Thornton is a member of Labour’s frontbench team in the House of Lords and tweets @GlenysThornton

Published 16th January 2014

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