Leader needs to be class act

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For a supposedly classless society. Britons are still obsessed with class. It is why David Cameron feels forced to defend his background and insist, as he does in The Yorkshire Post today, that he is not “too posh” to win northern votes next May.

The charge that the upper echelons of the Conservative Party are too privileged to understand the needs of the electorate is, of course, a familiar refrain. Nevertheless, it is clearly irksome for Mr Cameron and concerning for strategists at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that British politics is in a sad state. After all, it suggests that the process of choosing the nation’s next leader has been reduced to a popularity contest on a par with The X Factor, in which a history of adversity wins out over talent.

In a little over six months, the country must elect a Prime Minister who makes the right decisions. And the reality is that while the last Labour government was not bedevilled by claims of elitism, it consistently got the big decisions wrong. As for Ed Miliband, it is hard to know if he would fare any better as he has so far shown himself incapable of making any decision at all.

In terms of the mess Labour left behind, it has fallen to David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne to clear it up – and the burgeoning economic recovery is proof they have been up to the task.

At the same time, they have shown a commitment to enabling regions such as Yorkshire to fulfil their potential by promising new powers for the North by way of regional devolution, as well as major projects such as high-speed rail.

Where Mr Cameron does need to exercise caution, however, is in his perceived desire to distance himself from grassroots Tory values.

The needs of rural areas, concerns over the impact of “green” energy policies on household bills and the desire to see charity begin at home rather than an ever- increasing overseas aid bill are all matters that exercise the minds of traditional Tory voters.

Ignore them and he risks allowing Nigel Farage to snaffle votes and Ed Miliband to sneak into Downing Street via the back door.

Clegg’s pledge

No Boris figure for Yorkshire?

IN the wake of the Scottish referendum on independence there is an appetite for devolution within the English regions that, to its credit, the Government is acknowledging.

However, having chosen Manchester as the first in line for new powers, to be swiftly followed by Leeds and Sheffield, there was consternation at the idea that these would only be forthcoming if cities agreed to introduce Boris Johnson-style elected mayors.

So the assurance yesterday from the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking at the Northern Futures summit in Leeds, that there would be no such obligation will come as a comfort to many.

The one caveat to this promise, of course, is that it remains to be seen just how much say Nick Clegg has in the matter.

One area where Mr Clegg is unlikely to encounter dissenting voices is in his championing of faster rail links between Yorkshire towns and cities.

Having watched from the sidelines as London and the South East have benefited from considerable investment in its infrastructure – the latest example being the £16bn Crossrail scheme – rail users here have every right to feel short-changed.

Such improvements are not a luxury, they are a basic requirement.

Turning a corner

Morrisons’ recovery under way

NO company – and particularly not its shareholders – would view a six per cent slump in sales as reason to crack open the champagne. But in the topsy-turvy world of major supermarkets, such figures provide some reason for cheer.

The sense that Morrisons is starting to turn the corner is borne out in the near eight-point jump in its share price that came on the back of its better than expected quarterly results.

It offers some vindication for the Bradford-based retailer’s under-fire chief executive Dalton Philips, who survived calls for his head to usher in changes to the firm’s business model that are already bearing fruit.

With Netto being the latest entrant to an increasingly crowded budget supermarket sector, he still has his work cut out to return Morrisons to profit.

But his first task will be to persuade incoming chairman Andrew Higginson, the former Tesco finance director, that his three-year plan of price cuts and a new website can do

the trick.