IT could be worse for Ed Miliband – Labour did, at least, win the by-election to elect a new police and crime commissioner in South Yorkshire after the resignation of the party’s Shaun Wright in the wake of the Rotherham sex grooming scandal.
Yet the fact that Labour did prevail is testimony to the integrity of the party’s candidate, Canon Dr Alan Billings, and his ability to withstand a vitriolic United Kingdom Independence Party campaign, rather than a ringing endorsement of Mr Miliband’s leadership in his own back yard.
It is also ironic that Dr Billings finds himself presiding over a discredited constabulary when he campaigned for the abolition of the post of crime commissioner.
He does not appear to be alone. Even though this election was triggered by the serial failure of his predecessor, and others, to take appropriate action to prevent the sexual grooming of children in Rotherham on an industrial scale, just 15 per cent of the electorate were motivated to cast a vote – a dismal turnout in the circumstances.
However it will be voters at next year’s general election who will determine the long-term fate of crime commissioners and the priority facing Dr Billings is to rebuild the public’s shattered trust in the office that he now holds, and also the wider police family in South Yorkshire. It will not be easy – there are huge doubts about the leadership of David Crompton, the current Chief Constable, following his unconvincing response to Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the abuse scandal and also his handling of his force’s raid on a property owned by pop star Sir Cliff Richard.
On both matters, Mr Crompton’s decision-making has been ruthlessly exposed by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee and it now falls to Dr Billings to start holding his force’s senior officers to account. At least he has the credibility to do so. His predecessor did not.
A man in a million
Gary Verity batting for Yorkshire
THE WARMTH of the ovation afforded to Gary Verity, the winner of the individual award at The Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards, could not have been more deserving.
This is a man who generated £150m for the region’s economy thanks to his inspired decision, as Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive, to take on all-comers and bring the Tour de France – the world’s biggest annual sporting event – to God’s own county.
He dared to dream and the result was millions of people lining the county’s roads to watch the Grand Départ surpass all expectations and showcase Yorkshire’s spectacular scenery to a global audience.
As a marketing campaign, the legacy is already proving to be priceless as tourists flock to the region in huge numbers to see the sights for themselves. But Mr Verity’s vision is also an example to the rest of Yorkshire – and the business sector in particular – as the county looks to secure critical new investment. He refused to take “no” for an answer when others would have capitulated to pressure from those sceptical Ministers who wanted the Tour to begin in Edinburgh. He showed what is possible when local leaders from all spheres of life and influence pull together. And he gave every Yorkshire family even more reason to be proud of their white rose roots.
As such, the region can count itself extremely fortunate that it has inspiring individuals like Mr Verity batting for Yorkshire. If only there were hundreds more leaders like him.
Is this the Big Society in action?
IT SPEAKS volumes about contemporary society that Ilkley and District Good Neighbours, a public-spirited scheme set up 40 years ago to provide assistance to the elderly, is in need of re-enforcements to help the frail with their shopping and so on.
There was a time when individuals in need could count on their immediate neighbours to run an errand in an emergency. Not any more. As this newspaper’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign has demonstrated, many people are either too proud to ask for help – or do not even know their neighbours. This challenge would be even greater without the commitment of those volunteers who do go the extra mile so the vulnerable do not suffer in silence.
They are emblematic of the Big Society that David Cameron once championed and which is still fundamental to the future wellbeing of this country.
To many, it will be a source of sadness that there needs to be any debate about the importance of being good neighbours, but these are very different times to the post-war period when the whole country was so used
to pulling together.