I HAPPENED upon the strangest of sights last week while driving from Batley into Dewsbury town centre. All along Bradford Road, the traffic was crawling (as usual) but this time for a totally unexpected reason.
There must have been dozens of women, riding bicycles along the busy road. Well, I say women, because you can’t be too sure. I assume so, because they were all wearing head-to-toe black, complete with face veil as they pedalled like billy-o along the main road, weaving a bit left and right admittedly.
Those floor-length burkhas really aren’t ideal for sitting astride a Chopper. I’m not sure many had done their Cycling Proficiency Test.
And then, lo and behold, I got through the ring road and into Dewsbury to be met by another unreal sight. Instead of souped-up, boy-racer motors, with their tinted windows and booming rap music cruising around town, there were instead hundreds of young men pedalling bikes round and around Westgate, Northgate, Longcauseway, Crackenedge Lane and Corporation Street.
And instead of the young drivers throwing malevolent stares at anyone unwise enough to look disapprovingly at them, these happy chappies were smiling healthily, waving greetings to all and sundry, exalting in their environmentally friendly new hobby...
... And then I woke up, startled. It was just a daydream, most probably induced by reading the story on page one of The Press last Friday.
I’ve met the very well-meaning Bruce Bird of the Dewsbury Partnership. We sat down for a drink a couple of summers back and chatted about this and that – the town’s (many) pressing issues of the day.
If you read last week’s edition, Bruce was punting the idea of a network of commuter walking/cycling paths linking the proposed new 4,000-home Shariatown – sorry, Dewsbury Riverside – to the town centre, to help alleviate the already misery-inducing, lung-choking traffic congestion of the district’s east-west corridor.
I know I poke a bit of cynical mischief with my terminology for the new town – which is essentially what it is – but who do people think is going to live there?
Do Bruce and the planners believe aspiring young middle-class white families – your typical bike-riding classes – will be clamouring over des res new-builds literally squeezed between Ravensthorpe and Thornhill Lees?
They are already majority-Muslim communities where most of the pubs/chapels have become mosques, madressahs or Muslim community halls. White flight from those neighbourhoods has been a constant for a generation. Is that really going to change?
I doubt there’ll be plans for a new CofE or Methodist church in Dewsbury Riverside – my old Catholic church St Anne’s is distant history – but you can bet your bottom rupee there will be a few mosques for the expected 16,000 new residents, because that’s the minimum we’re talking about here.
AND before anyone starts banging their “that’s being racist, Lockwood” drum, can I just say: No it’s not. It’s called being realistic.
If Dewsbury Riverside is anything besides being a Kirklees planning cop-out, it’s a much-needed overspill for Savile Town, Scout Hill, Ravensthorpe and Thornhill Lees.
And if any local estate agents want to chime in here, feel free. Who are the only people buying properties in those areas, pray tell?
Following on from that, it is nothing more nor less than a cultural observation to point out that the last time you saw a woman in traditional Muslim dress pedalling a bike, she probably had an Alsatian dog on a lead, too – because our Muslim brethren are as keen on domestic dogs as they are on a large whisky nightcap (and I say that, but must point out that my old mucker Terry Zaman has a rabid guard dog protecting his Dewsbury Moor house. I thought it was going to take my hand off the last time I delivered Terry a right-of-reply note).
The fact is that my poor Labrador Arthur looks fairly bemused when he wags his tail up Branch Road in Batley, only for young Muslim mums to gather in their kids and scurry across the road to ‘safety’.
I don’t know why. It just is. And it’s no big deal in itself because each to their own.
Bruce Bird and his equally well-meaning colleagues fear that without their commuter corridors, Shariatown will become an isolated, separatist entity.
Dearie me – of course it will! Because the whole transport conundrum apart, that’s the entire idea.
And it will be a new town with a distinctive cultural and community identity – just not mine, or Bruce’s and certainly not cycling guru Coun Martyn Bolt’s.
No one’s saying it’s wrong – apart from the non-existent traffic infrastructure – but why do people blindly pretend it’s something it isn’t?
SO, we’re looking at an early November general election, prophesy the ‘experts’. My guess is that these ‘experts’ did their apprenticeships as weather forecasters for the Met Office.
Lord knows what’s next for bouncing Boris if Tory traitors join the Lib Dems and ‘CoCo’ clowns – Corbyn’s Communistas – in essentially declaring Parliamentary civil war. If he loses a no confidence vote, convention dictates Boris has to go to the people. His current line is that he would – but not until after October 31st, when we’ve left, which would leave the Brexit Party neutered. By the day, counter-plotters come up with a new dastardly plan to halt it. It’s a circus, not half.
This week BoJo’s gang were bemoaning the EU’s blunt refusal to negotiate any kind of deal, but this should be no surprise because the Brussels bluff has finally been called. Theresa May’s abject Withdrawal Bill has been repeatedly rejected and now the EU have no more cards to play – they’re reliant on their UK Remain allies to keep us hostage.
As things stand it’s Brussels, Macron and Merkel who insist on using No Deal as their last gasp bogeyman against Boris, Michael Gove and the new Leave-dominated Cabinet. By declaring the talks dead they are empowering Parliament’s Remain rump to become their 5th column of saboteurs; the enemy under our roof.
But what happens if Boris’s plans fail, an election is called early – I’ve heard October 17 – and he won’t do a deal with Farage’s Brexit Party? We actually could have an unthinkable CoCo government.
And if you think Brexit uncertainty has (however modestly) hit sterling and economic output, wait until those imbeciles get the keys to the place. Last one out, lights, turn off etc. And the CoCo clowns cheering loudest? They would be the worst hit because they always are.
PS: I wouldn’t expect MP Paula Sherriff to comment, but the Dewsbury tittle-tattle is that arch-Labour loony Paul Moore – Shahid Malik’s former ‘muscle’ (I have to laugh, sorry) – is plotting her de-selection. Paula’s too moderate apparently, unlike her fashionista sister Tracy Brabin in Batley, who Momentum are reportedly perfectly happy with. I can’t say I buy the conspiracy, but hey – don’t shoot the messenger!