Una Mullally: Bishop skewers British oblivion and Brexit folly
Bradford city panel discussion hears of UK’s delusion and its denial of the death of empire
Britain’s lack of self-awareness and self-examination means poor negotiating skills, and an inability to see how its negotiating behaviour is being perceived.
On Saturday, I sat in the chamber of Bradford’s City Hall to listen to a discussion titled Brexit: Where Next? I was speaking at another event at the Bradford Literature Festival – founded in 2014, and a complete success story for the city – about the Repeal referendum, an act of democracy that is almost a complete opposite to Brexit in every way, from preparation, education and engagement, to completion.
Bradford was once the richest city in Britain, and it is now one of the most deprived. During the industrial revolution, it was the wool capital of the world. The immigration that fuelled the manufacturing made the city rich. The immigration of Jewish-German business people who organised wool exports, and Irish immigrants from Mayo and Sligo in the mid 19th century who became mill workers, fuelled a booming economy. The city has kept its beauty in many ways, the sandstone buildings and Victorian architecture, but its level of poverty, vacancy rates, and lack of aspiration or tangible path back from the brink sees it framed in many ways as Britain’s Detroit – although that might be a bit harsh. You are more likely to be a victim of crime in West Yorkshire than anywhere else in the UK. The towering Lister’s Mill, once the largest silk factory in the world, and where a strike in 1890 birthed the Independent Labour Party, still dominates its skyline.