Mohammad Yasin: From driving a taxi to British parliament

LONDON: A British Pakistani taxi driver, who is now a member of the British parliament, hopes that his rise through hard work will inspire and encourage young people to come forward and take part in politics.

Mohammad Yasin, the Labour MP for Bedford, won the seat with a majority of around 800 votes in this year’s general elections and defeated Conservative’s Richard Fuller. This victory was particularly important because Bedford has been seen as a traditional Tory stronghold and the voting trend on this seat is seen as an indicator of the national mood.

In an exclusive interview with Geo News, Mohammad Yasin shared his story of struggle and dedication and related that he was proud of the fact that he comes from a working-class background.

Yasin was born in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, and his father worked as a truck driver to feed his family. Yasin studied in Degree College Mirpur and obtained a degree in Commerce (B.Com). Now 46, Yasin came to the United Kingdom 25 years ago and made Bedford his home.

“I started my life in Britain by working in a factory and did menial jobs. After some time, I gained a taxi license and started work as a taxi driver until a few months back, when it became impossible to continue with that job as my commitments grew after becoming MP. It’s a matter of pride and honour for me that I have worked at all levels and made my way up through sheer dedication and hard work,” said Yasin.

Yasin said that while he worked in a factory, he came across trade union members and his interest in politics grew through trade unionism. He joined the Labour party as a member and started taking part in local party events where local and national issues were discussed.

Yasin’s interest grew further and around a decade ago he took part in local council elections and became a local councillor on the Labour ticket.

His interest in local issues was so intense that he divided his time by working as a cab driver and being a local councillor and held regular interactions with local voters.

“Working at the local level in the community was very helpful because it helped me know the real issues ordinary people face in their daily lives. I have been working with locals to get their issues resolved such as local schools, roads, drainage system, standards of education, pavements, issues parents face, anti-social behaviour, issues of young parents, housing and crime and so on,” he said.

Yasin has since then won every council election he stood in and he has served as Bedford Borough councillor in Queens Park since 2006 and served as council’s cabinet minister.

He added that his parents told him from a young age that it will be through hard work that he will make his way up and he made that a motto in his life every day. He further said that he was, till now, not aware who nominated him within the local Labour party to stand as an MP in the elections held this summer.

“It’s the system of merit that helped me come up and forward. My local Labour party was supportive of me and thought I was best suited to challenge the Tory candidate. I was selected by the Labour’s National Executive Council (NEC) committee to run for the parliament and there was so much negative coverage of Labour in the media that I thought I had no chance of winning against so much hostility.”

“However, I thought I will give my best to the election campaign and I went to each and every voter in the constituency and told them how the Tory government had no concern with the lives of ordinary people and that it cared only for the rich and powerful,” the Labour MP said.

He also said he didn’t hope to win but it was the strong messages and energetic campaign run by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that made a lot of difference.

“Corbyn’s message of ‘for the many, not few’ was taken well by the voters across the country. The youth turned out in their thousands to vote against Tory cuts and austerity measures and that was a key factor in this election and gave Labour voters in areas which were seen as non-Labour areas.”

The Labour MP said he was delighted to be the first ethnic minority member of parliament in Bedfordshire and hoped that his success would pave the way for many others and will inspire more young people from ethnic minorities to get involved in politics.

Yasin said it would have been impossible for him to become a parliamentarian in Pakistan. “In Pakistan, you can become a parliamentarian if you are super rich and have endless resources. I would never even be considered for a ticket in that system.”

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