Naz Shah, Labour’s newly-selected candidate in Bradford West, has written a piece for the Urban Echo revealing her truly remarkable upbringing.
I was only 6 when my father abandoned my mother with two young children and pregnant with a third when he eloped with the neighbour’s 16 year old daughter. I remember been thrown into the back of a taxi with black bin liners full of our belongings and packed off from the family home on Hartman Place to my granddad’s home in Kirkham Road. We never really saw the end of black bin liners over the next few years as we moved from squalor to squalor, 14 times in less than 2 years, from back to back houses where the toilet was outside to rat infested damp houses where we lived and slept in just one room.
She tells how, after years in an abusive relationship, her mother eventually killed the man who had been abusing her.
I remember how my days and nights became one, how my world was turned upside down, how I became a mother to my two siblings who were 11 and 13 at the time. Up until then the worst I had known personally was my own forced marriage through emotional blackmail when I was just 15 years old whilst in Pakistan. I never went back to schooling and my first job was at Society Linen hire on Usher St, the laundry service for the local hospitals. I moved on to packing crisps at Seabrook’s which was a huge improvement in job and wages. By January 1992 I wanted to go back to college after leaving my own husband who used his fists to communicate and now this.
My life now revolved around solicitor and prison visits, I didn’t know how to run a house, I used to smoke 10 Benson’s and read the Sun for crying out loud. I remember the first day I visited my mother at Newhall Prison, when I left it was like leaving a crying child at nursery for the first time, I now became a mother to my mother. We lost the house, we lost everything and the moving around started all over again.
Shah’s campaign to free her mother, Zoora was profiled in the Guardian in 1999:
While Zoora’s dreams have gone, beaten out of her by men and by the criminal justice system, Naseem remains steadfast. “The campaign represents a struggle against the sexual and economic exploitation of many Asian women. I won’t stop until the day she comes home. She’s the best mother in the world. She guides me every day and keeps me focused. I can only hope she’s proud of me.”
Following the surprise decision by Amina Ali, Labour’s previous candidate, to step down just days after being selected, Shah faces a difficult battle both to unify her local party and to unseat George Galloway. But her biography may provide a helpful contrast with George Galloway, who has been in and out of Westminster since 1987, and has courted controversy with his own comments on sexual relations in the past.