Ian Greenwood, politician

Ian Greenwood, who has died at 68, was one of the most influential political figures in Bradford.

Ian Greenwood

Twice leader of the city council, he enjoyed a reputation as a quick witted, straight talking Yorkshireman whose word was his bond. He was passionate about Bradford, relentless in pursuing social justice, implacable and resolute in opposing extremism.

Spurred by the desire to improve the lives of ordinary people, he had joined the Labour Party in the 1970s. It was the beginning of a political career spanning five decades, which saw him becoming regional organiser for the NALGO union, serving on the county and district councils, leading Bradford’s Labour group and achieving national prominence in the public sector pensions industry.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Instantly recognisable and larger than life, he knew Bradford like the back of his hand. He served Little Horton, the community from which he came, for 17 years. He had only to walk a few yards there before someone stopped to greet him or ask advice.

A pragmatic, big tent politician in a city characterised by diversity, his leadership transcended cultural, community and sometimes political boundaries. He vociferously opposed all forms of extremism and was instrumental in campaigns that rejected the politics of those who propagated intolerance, hatred or division.

He established the collaborative Bradford Congress in the mid 1990s and inspired the city’s 2020 Vision campaign which encapsulated its long-term ambitions.

Tough calls on his watch included the closure of schools as the district moved from three to two-tier education. It came at a political price as his council leadership was lost.

His second spell in charge coincided with austerity but he nevertheless promoted a campaign called Get Bradford Working, which supported more than 3,000 young people into work. At around the same time, the City Park opened in Centenary Square, a version of which had been outlined in a masterplan produced for the city by the architect Will Alsop, but never realised. At its launch, Mr Greenwood was delighted to see his city throng with 35,000 people.

No stranger to political rough and tumble, he accepted victory and defeat with dignity. In 2012, losing his seat at the third recount to a candidate from George Galloway’s Respect Party, following a rancourous campaign, his first thoughts were for his godchildren who might have been upset.

He mentored politicians including the former Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and the Bradford East MP Imran Hussain, who described him as “a giant of Bradford politics”.

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, said he was the “epitome of the straight-talking Yorkshireman”.

He returned to City Hall earlier this year as councillor for Bolton and Undercliffe.

Awarded the OBE in 2013, he is survived by his brother Keith, nephew Harvey and family, and four godchildren.