Europe and credibility test

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IN many respects, the upcoming European elections could not be more important – the outcome will set the tone for Britain’s future relationship with Brussels. The MEPs elected next week will have a crucial role to play in representing Yorkshire’s best interests. Yet, despite this, the campaign could not have been more lacklustre.

The Tories first. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary and one of his party’s best campaigners, has been strangely quiet on the EU; David Cameron has been preoccupied by the Scottish independence vote and the Tories are reluctant to use Thursday’s poll as a dry run for next year’s general election when the party will need to make significant gains across Yorkshire and the North.

Next Labour. Having ruled out a referendum on EU membership, Europe is the one issue that Ed Miliband does not want to discuss – he hopes a relentless attack on ‘cost of living’ will win back sufficient core supporters so his party can secure 35 per cent of the vote next year, a share of the vote that would enable the Doncaster North MP to become Prime Minister. That’s the reality.

Now the Liberal Democrats. To be fair, Nick Clegg has tried to highlight his party’s pro-Europe credentials and it would be churlish not to acknowledge this. The problem is that his efforts has been overshadowed by coalition spats over free school meals that reflect poorly on his party.

This is playing straight into the hands of Nigel Farage, and the intolerant views of some of his Ukip candidates. Despite countless controversies, Ukip has become the protest party of choice – even though its agenda could be deeply damaging to Yorkshire businesses. If it does create a political earthquake next week, the forecast of Mr Farage, the main parties will only have themselves to blame. As such, they have have just five days to save their campaigns – and credibility.

Chilcot inquiry must go public

WHY SET up a public inquiry into the Iraq war, spend at least £7m of public money on the hearings – and then attempt to suppress the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s investigations until after the next election?

This is the question which goes to the heart of the growing misgivings that the publication of the inquiry being delayed because private communications between Tony Blair and President George W Bush have not been released.

This is inexcusable. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein took place 12 long years ago. It is five years since the last British troops were withdrawn. Mr Blair and President Bush no longer hold elected positions. If there is any threat to national security, the necessary passages can be redacted so the rest of the Chilcot findings can be released.

It is important that this happens – this is a very uncertain, and turbulent, world and lessons do need to be learned from this unfortunate episode in history before Britain becomes embroiled in another conflict in the Middle East that does not have a clear set of objectives.

That Mr Blair, and others, seem reluctant for this to happen only gives credence to the view that the powers-that-be do not wish to embarrass Labour prior to the next election. This is wrong. The national interest should always trump party political considerations and that means the Chilcot report, already four years overdue, is published without further delay.

Anything less would be a betrayal of all those service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of President Bush and Mr Blair.

Johan Blake’s Yorkshire dream

THE second fastest man on the planet behind his compatriot Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter Johan Blake, would certainly cut a dash on the outfield of Headingley Carnegie if he fulfilled his dream of playing for Yorkshire.

He may not have the rhythmical action of his fellow countryman Michael Holding – the fast bowler christened as ‘Whispering Death’ by Yorkshire president Dickie Bird – but Blake’s speed in the field could be an asset in the helter-skelter of Twenty20.

Running between the wickets could be entertaining; Blake could even be too fast for those batsmen like Joe Root who have terrier-like pace. At least Geoffrey Boycott wouldn’t be at the other end; a run out would be inevitable and it wouldn’t be the Jamaican making a long, and slightly sheepish, walk back to the pavilion.

Joking apart, the club should be proud that Yohan Blake wants to join its ranks – further proof, if any was needed, that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is still a global brand with a following to match.