DCSIMG

Osborne is on the right track

THE political and economic symbolism was striking as George Osborne showed off his culinary skills at the historic Dean Clough Mill in Halifax. One of the must-win marginals that eluded the Conservatives in 2010, the West Yorkshire textile town is a barometer seat that holds the key to the 2015 election.

THE political and economic symbolism was striking as George Osborne showed off his culinary skills at the historic Dean Clough Mill in Halifax. One of the must-win marginals that eluded the Conservatives in 2010, the West Yorkshire textile town is a barometer seat that holds the key to the 2015 election.

Yet Dean Clough Mill is also emblematic of how the Tories still need to re-invent themselves in the North. A landmark site once home to the world’s largest carpet factory, its imposing 19th century buildings have been transformed into a complex that houses 150 businesses – and 4,000 staff in total.

To an individual like Mr Osborne, grappling with a budget deficit of £120bn, these numbers appear to be fairly inconsequential at face value – they reveal that each enterprise employs 27 staff on average.

Yet it is precisely the type of scheme that the Tories, the party of small business, need to be championing across Yorkshire; the imaginative conversion of redundant buildings into innovation hubs which can facilitate new jobs in the private sector and ease the region’s over-dependence on the public sector.

The Chancellor will only accrue the political rewards if there is the right economic framework in place for towns like Halifax to prosper. Despite the UK’s welcome return to growth, this is not a time for smugness.

Yet, while many contend that the Chancellor has not devolved sufficient economic growth powers to regional leaders and has been a roadblock to Lord Heseltine’s blueprint to counter the North-South divide, the start of work today on the £600m Northern Hub rail upgrade is a catalyst for change that should be welcomed.

Not only does it have the potential to create up to 20,000 jobs, but Mr Osborne recognises that improved rail links – whether it be HS2 or rush-hour services linking the great towns and cities of the North – are critical to the region’s future fortunes. In this regard, the Chancellor is on the right track.

No token gestures

Women want to succeed on merit

WHY is there a dearth of women in the upper echelons of politics, science and business?

If Jenny Willott, the consumer affairs Minister, is to be believed, it is because of those parents who dress their daughters in pink and such gender-stereotyping prevents young girls from broadening their horizons.

Conversely, the Tory MP Margot James hinted at discrimination when she challenged David Cameron to promote more women to his Cabinet, even though there appears to be a dearth of suitable candidates – of either sex – warranting promotion at present.

Either way, the pace of change is still far too slow despite contemporary British history being dominated by two powerful women without parallel – the Queen and the late Margaret Thatcher. This country’s male-dominated elite has failed to recognise changes in society because women are more determined, a century after winning the right to vote, to stand on their own two feet and forge successful careers.

The need to make it easier for mothers to combine careers with bringing up their children was further highlighted when the Commons Science and Technology Committee said that the wider UK economy will suffer unless more women can be attracted to key roles in this sector.

Its findings came 24 hours after Ed Miliband taunted David Cameron when Labour whips spotted noted that there was not a single female Minister sitting on the front bench for Prime Minister’s Questions.

However this must not be allowed to be become a party political issue. Each of the main parties has an under-representation of senior women both nationally – and on key council committees across Yorkshire.

The challenge is putting in place the right framework of support, so women have a fair chance of climbing to the top of their chosen career without their efforts being demeaned by quotas like Labour’s non-meritocratic all-women shortlists for Parliamentary seats, or by favouritism or positive discrimination.

Cracking the code

Leeds is home to new computer age

THOSE fearful that their personal privacy could be breached by “Big Data”, the clunky phrase coined to describe the analysis of information logged by computers, should think again and place this development in the context of the work undertaken by World War Two codebreakers 70 years ago.

Without their perseverance in developing the world’s first computer in order to crack Hitler’s Enigma code, a feat highlighted this week by the publication of a poignant archive photograph showing the role played by women at Bletchley Park, Winston Churchill and the Allies would not have been able to execute the D-Day landings and bring the Second World War to an end.

This is why so much importance is now being attached to the University of Leeds becoming a “Big Data” hub after the award of two landmark grants.

If it can find a way to decipher the masses of information collected by computers every second of the day, the advances in medical research, for example, could be limitless.

Not only will be this of far-reaching benefit to families making lifestyle choices, but to those policy-makers now devising strategies to reflect the social challenges posed by an ageing society.

 

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