NEW Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin discovered how big a job she’s taken on during an hour-long grilling on a Muslim radio station – not only having to save Dewsbury District Hospital but solve major crises around the world.
In the live interview on the Indian Muslim Welfare Society radio station at the Al Hikmah Centre on Track Road, which was broadcast live on the internet and could be seen on YouTube, Ms Brabin:
• Wondered why abusive hecklers at her victorious election count weren’t thrown out by police;
• Intimated that UKIP is a far-right organisation;
• Called for more financial support for local Muslim women, including money for English lessons;
• Attacked Israel and said she is ‘a Friend of Palestine’;
• Blamed segregated local communities equally on the white population for failing to integrate.
Ms Brabin also spent a long time explaining how busy she has been both locally and in Parliament fighting the ongoing cuts at Dewsbury District Hospital.
She blamed many of the current problems in Kirklees Children’s Services on Tory government cuts.
One angry caller however demanded to know what Ms Brabin was personally going to do about the war in Syria, and accused her of “waffling and being evasive” when she described her recent visit to Kurdistan and having “stood in Saddam’s murder house”.
The man said he wanted a clear answer from the MP regarding what she was going to do about Syria and the killing of Muslims in Myanmar (Burma). Ms Brabin explained that during her Kurdistan visit, her hosts insisted that it was “an Iraqi problem” and had welcomed foreign intervention.
During a heated exchange over Labour MPs voting not to hold ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair to account over the war in Iraq, she said the Parliamentary motion was a ploy by Scottish nationalists to divide her party. She resigned from the Labour Party at the time Blair and US President George Bush invaded Iraq at the cost of more than a million lives.
In Friday’s interview she condemned both the war and Blair, but said the recent vote was entirely about whether or not he lied to Parliament.
“The Chilcott report says unequivocally that Tony Blair did not lie … and that was their (SNP) motion, that he lied,” she replied. “And I will not play party politics with the SNP trying to prove that the Labour Party is divided on this issue.”
Ms Brabin also seemed to suggest that Labour is united in fighting to stop Brexit – despite North Kirklees voting overwhelmingly to ‘Leave’ in the June referendum.
After explaining the Blair vote, she added: “More than ever we need the country to see that Labour is getting back on its feet, it’s getting back united, it’s fighting against Brexit, it’s fighting against the NHS closures, what we want to see is our party standing together on one issue and if you look at the numbers you will see that we were.”
TRACY BRABIN ON ... BEING ELECTED
During her election count in Huddersfield Ms Brabin was heckled by three of her rival candidates and their supporters.
She said: “We had not met those other nine fringe parties. It was interesting to see and meet them in the flesh. They are just sad and I actually feel a bit sorry for them. I feel pity for them for being so angry.”
She said they were “being abusive, vile” and that she wondered why the police didn’t throw them out – but concluded that it would only get them on camera and bring more publicity.
Of the low voter turn-out, she said by-elections were “notoriously low” and that people are possibly “dispirited with politics” – but that there was also a perception that she was already the MP!
“People also thought I’d already been elected after the selection,” she said.
“People already thought I was the MP and they didn’t realise there were nine other parties standing against me … and there were also people thinking it was going to be a shoo-in, she doesn’t need my vote.”
Asked about the rise of far right factions, she commented: “I think it was really great in Austria that the far right didn’t get in.
“I think Marine le Pen (in France) is an issue because she has smoothed out her edges and has made herself so acceptable – but I also feel very joyful that in Sleaford (the recent by-election) UKIP actually got less than they were expecting.
“Paul Nuttal (new UKIP leader) likes to think that UKIP is going to bestride the nation and that we’re all going to be Ukippers and have those attitudes. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case and I think Labour has got to up the game and build a better offer.
“We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped in Sleaford but neither did UKIP so that was really reassuring.”
UKIP actually finished runner-up in the Sleaford by-election, with Labour in fourth place.
TRACY BRABIN ON ... ‘THE CASEY REVIEW’
Dame Louise Casey has written an explosive report on ‘opportunity and integration’. Its focus was largely on divided communities, particularly in the north of England.
Ms Brabin gave it a cautious welcome. “I think the review is good. She says some things I agree with and some things I don’t,” she said, while admitting she’d only read the ‘headline’ points in it.
However the MP swiftly blamed Tory cuts for preventing investment in services specifically in ethnic minority communities, saying she would be writing to the minister demanding more investment, particularly for women.
On the subject of segregation, a major focus of the Casey Review, Ms Brabin interpreted it as referring to women in Muslim communities.
“Having spent time at the Al Hikmah Centre and Batley Girls High School, I would say those young Muslim women are not in need of integration, they are in need of financial support,” she said.
Ms Brabin denounced any women being controlled “or locked in a house” and being prevented from learning English or getting a job. She said: “I think this an over-emphasis on the Muslim community continually is distracting and opens up an opportunity for detractors to say it’’ all the Muslim problem and painting Muslim women as weak and vulnerable and victims is not my experience of a lot of my friends and colleagues.”
Pressed on segregation by the show’s host, who said the report referred “to Dewsbury not by name, but by implication” she added: “I think it’s also cultural that if women want to stay at home and not go to mosque, or if women want to be with other women or want to celebrate with other women, then all power to their elbow, they’re entitled to do what they want, it’s a free country.”
She compared Muslim women’s isolationism with “all-white male golf clubs where women are not allowed in”.
She also described the Casey Review talking about areas of high immigration as being “inflammatory”.
Pressed on the issue of white flight in mixed communities, the MP said: “There is no mention of integration from white communities … it’s always the other way round, Muslims have to do all the work and I think it is absolutely a two-way street.”
Ms Brabin detailed an encounter with a white woman while out canvassing, who told her about living on a big estate plagued by anti-social behaviour, fights, drinking and litter.
“She said now she has moved to Heckmondwike and it’s a particularly Muslim street, she said ‘I am so happy here’. She said, ‘if other people knew how brilliant this community was it would be full of people like me’.”
TRACY BRABIN ON ‘BRITISH VALUES’
Part of the Casey Review dealt with migrant communities and the instilling of British values. Her radio interview led to something of a comedy moment when Tracy Brabin, while attacking FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in Muslim communities managed to move Egypt from Africa to Europe – because people holiday there.
“The thing about being an MP is that overnight you have to be an expert on everything – including where Egypt is!” she said.
Describing ‘British values’ she said: “It’s democracy, it’s tolerance, it’s a support for each other, it’s a sense of community, it’s social cohesion, it’s all those things.
“But if you are from a community where you believe in FGM it’s illegal in our country, if you believe in honour killings it’s illegal in our country. You don’t have to be told that’s a British value because we just know it, because it’s illegal.”
She said that in terms of responding to the Casey Review she would be looking to Asian MPs “to lead from the front because this is a lived experience for them.
“And I’m supporting them because they can speak incredibly authentically on this.”
TRACY BRABIN ON ... LOCAL ISSUES
The new MP has been busy both locally and in Parliament fighting to retain services at Dewsbury District Hospital – and she’s determined to stay as MP whatever happens with boundary changes at the next election.
Despite being “disappointed” about a recent report into failing Children’s Services at Kirklees Council she said she has been in discussion with senior staff and again blamed Tory government cuts making it “really hard for our Labour council”.
On hospital services, she said: “I think we have to maintain the Bronte and Staincliffe wings and make sure they are not demolished.”
Ms Brabin was critical of transfer rates to Pinderfields from the new midwife-led maternity unit at Dewsbury and said she was “trying to dig deeper into figures”. Supposed savings of £11m have only delivered £3.5m, she claimed.
She was upbeat about a creative arts apprenticeship scheme being located in Batley, assisted by new funding available from April.
“This is the only place there’s any money and I think it would be great if we could hive off some of that money to create an institute of apprenticeships for film and television and I’ve been having meetings with several partners.
“There is quite a bit of heat about it, excitement, and I think if we could get that in Batley and Spen, then you’ve got a reason why people come here and use the services.”
Meanwhile Strictly Come Dancing star and former Chancellor (and Morley MP) Ed Balls got a warning shot across his bows if Batley is moved into a new constituency with Morley.
Tracy referred to Balls saying that “if it became Batley and Morley Tracy Brabin is the sitting MP and should have first dibs”.
Laughing, she said: “You’re not even an MP, how dare you even put it out there that you’re going to dance your way back into being an MP!”
ON FOREIGN POLICY...
Asked where she stands on the Palestine issue, Ms Brabin replied: “I met with a Palestine solidarity organisation in London.
“I am a ‘Friend of Palestine’. I do think it shames us all the way Israel has these incursions that seem to me – people are just looking away. My concern now is that with Trump, President elect, how that is going to impact on all of these regions actually, not just Palestine.
“But I am very mindful that things seem to have slowed down, it’s off the front pages, and that’s not right. We should still be very aware of what’s happening there. I’m a real advocate and will be championing their cause.”
She called plans for new Israeli settlements on the West Bank “criminal” adding: “There has to be more pressure.”