A fairer deal for rural areas

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WHAT ANNOYS many rural residents is not their quality of life, but the indifference shown towards them by Britain’s political leaders whose decision-making is becoming more and more London-centric.

Conservative by instinct, they do not want another tier of government to champion their interests. They’re also realistic, unlike some, about the state of the public’s finances as Britain emerges from the deepest recession since the war.

But they are taxpayers – the rural economy is a £211bn a year industry according to Defra’s figures – and they do have a right to expect the Government to provide a level of funding that is commensurate with the needs of Yorkshire’s countryside communities.

It remains to be seen whether any of the main political parties is prepared to reform the outdated funding mechanisms which so penalise the shires when general elections are won and lost in a select number of urban constituencies.

However this should not preclude the Government from moving away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to policy-making and looking to ‘rural-proof’ proposals when they are put before the Cabinet. If this mindset changed, Ministers might – just – have realised that their so-called bedroom tax was impractical in those rural locations where there is already an acute shortage of public housing. They might also have recognised the enduring importance of subsidising bus services in countryside communities, or ensuring that schools are not left short-changed by an urban bias.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this malaise is that it has accelerated under the Conservatives, a party that has its roots in the countryside, and that this inertia is very dispiriting to those battling to retain those community facilities which are still operating.

This is precisely the type of endeavour that the Government should be looking to harness if rural Britain is to thrive again.

Miliband hires top Obama guru

IT SAYS much about the calibre of today’s political leadership that both of the main parties have hired election strategists from overseas, with Labour hoping that Barack Obama’s guru David Axelrod can counter the Australian Lynton Crosby who is a growing influence within David Cameron’s inner circle.

Are the Tories and Labour seriously suggesting that these campaigners, both very able individuals in their own right, have a better grasp of the day-to-day issues concerning families across Yorkshire – and the rest of the country for that matter – than the small army of special advisors and professional political apparatchiks now at their disposal?

Given the respective records of both men, it suggests that the 2015 campaign will be dominated by the type of negative campaigning that has alienated so many residents as the parties focus their efforts on the relatively small number of undecided voters whose decision will determine whether Mr Cameron, or Ed Miliband, governs Britain.

In many respects, Mr Axelrod’s appointment is the more curious. He will command a six-figure salary at a time when Labour’s finances are porous. Every passing weeks sees Shadow Cabinet members revealing heir exasperation with Mr Miliband – will their new campaign chief have any policies to work with? And then there is his association with President Obama, a leader who continues to disappoint both domestically and with his indifference to foreign affairs.

To paraphrase Mr Miliband’s party conference speech: “Britain can do better than this.”

Tour Makers face linguistic test

GIVEN that the enduring warmth of Yorkshire hospitality will be a defining feature of this summer’s Grand Départ, it seems a slight over-reaction to ask Tour Makers to mind their language and refrain from using terms of endearment like ‘love’, ‘duck’ or ‘darling’.

It is hard to imagine these phrases causing offence, the apparent concern of Welcome to Yorkshire, if they’re used in the right context to reassure all those cycling devotees who will be heading to God’s own county in early July.

And their visit will be even more pleasurable if they are given the warmest of welcomes rather than the slightly sanitised version now being advocated. There would be no question of the French downplaying some of their characteristics in case they cause of offence to visitors from Britain, so why should Yorkshire be any different when it comes to the use of those Tyke terms that have stood the test of time and contributed so much to this county’s reputation for goodwill to all men – and women?

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