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Stephen White
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Over the years I have spent quite a lot of time in Bradford. My wife, at that time my girlfriend, went to Margaret McMillan College of Education in the town, we were regular visitors to the Alhambra Theatre, and later on I taught numerous managers working for Grattan’s, the mail order catalogue company. It is a fine town, populated by great characters.

In 1981 Bradford made headlines when it declared itself to be a nuclear-free zone. No one quite understood what that meant in practice, but the literal interpretation was that if there was a nuclear war Bradford wasn’t going to be involved, and any foreign enemy aiming missiles at the UK had therefore to ensure that they avoided hitting Bradford. We all wondered if Russia had quite understood. In the end nuclear-free status did not happen.

They were at it again in 2014, when George Galloway declared Bradford an Israel-free zone, telling locals to boycott Israeli made products. This time the plan came unstuck because most people didn’t care enough to take any action, but if they had they would have found that products designed, developed, or made in Israel included USB memory sticks, the Intel chips used in most mobile phones and laptops, and parts of Google’s technology which the good people of Bradford would probably have objected to doing without. In the end, Israel-free status did not happen.

I was reminded of these two events by a news item reporting that about 100 religiously conservative Polish local authorities have declared themselves LGBT-free zones. Intellectually this means that they deny LGBT ideology; in practice it means that they adopt generally homophobic attitudes at official levels, including for example banning Gay Pride marches and demonstrations, and possibly discriminating against LGBT individuals, perhaps expecting them to change to what they believe is ‘normal’ orientation or at least persuading them to leave town. 

I expect they will fail, just as Bradford did. The problem is that whatever they declare, peoples’ sexuality and gender choices are neither created by official decree nor eliminated by them. Add to that the increasing ire of the EU which can wield some major sanctions on Poland if they choose. I expect that the LBGT-free declarations will evaporate (although unfortunately the discrimination will not).

Saying that something will happen does not make it happen. Boris Johnson has found this over the last 6 months in his pronouncements on Brexit (oven-ready deal) and COVID 19 (all over by Christmas) and lots more.  Untrue statements made in the guise of confidence-boosters always get found out, and even if the motive was benign the effect is ultimately negative.

Think about that next time you are inclined to bluster about the certainty of an event which is by no means certain during a negotiation, or you hear it from your negotiating partner. If you can predict the nonsensicality then rather than just argue, trade the opinion. For example, the people of Bradford might have said to their councillors ‘To be a nuclear-free zone you need to get Russia on side. Prove that you have done that and we will support you. Fail and we require you all to resign for being bonkers ‘

That would have sorted the men from the boys. (Sorry, I meant the adults from the children).

Stephen White
More by Stephen White:
Data Breakdown
Red Lines
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