The city of Bradford lies in the heart of West Yorkshire. Like much of the region, it has suffered from a decline in manufacturing, its wool and textile industries are now long gone.
There’s high unemployment here and a significant number of underachieving schools. This is also a city with a big Muslim population – around 20 per cent, many of them emigrated from Pakistan in the 1950s.
The votes of Muslims in this region really matter. Bradford is in the M62 corridor, which is a crucial election battleground. There are a number of key marginal parliamentary seats here currently held by labour, and the conservatives have to win them back if they are going to stand a chance of taking power.
How are the politicians going to win support? Well, back in 2005 one of the key issues for Muslim voters was foreign policy and in particular the Iraq war.
But sitting in a local cafe and typing away, Atif Imtiaz, who writes a blog about life in Bradford, tells me other issues may now be taking priority.
“Although foreign policy is important,” he says, “Muslims in Bradford have the same concerns as ordinary Bradfordians”.
Those concerns, he goes on to explain, are the economy, education, and health care. Atif thinks British Muslims should come out and vote for the candidate that can best serve them locally.
The message of controversial Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir couldn’t be anymore different. It has been canvassing Muslims in community centres and mosques, asking them not to go to the polls.
“When people say you have to vote, its ridiculous,” Taji Mustafa, a writer, activist and speaker for the group, says. “[And] it’s not just Muslims, there’s a wider public that’s now lost trust with the political process.”
We don’t know yet if Muslims are listening. What will worry politicians is a recent poll by a think tank called Theos, which found that only 32 per cent of Muslims are “absolutely certain” to vote, compared with 47 per cent of the population as a whole.
In Bradford, the battle is just beginning, and candidates will have to win the hearts and minds of British Muslims here if they want victory.