May 26: Time to think outside the box

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TO THOSE who bring a parochial perspective to politics, there is not much – geography apart – that links West and North Yorkshire. One is a metropolitan county that was at the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution while the other 
is emblematic of two National Parks and some of the most stunning scenery in the world.

Yet, while the current devolution continues to focus on the empowerment of city-regions like Leeds and Sheffield, and the continuing reluctance of council leaders to accede to the Government’s desire for the introduction of Boris Johnson-style “metro mayors”, it is important that the debate about local government structures does not stand in the way of greater co-operation between neighbouring authorities. Too many decisions in the past have been taken in isolation.

Like it or not, the future prospects of both counties, as well as South and East Yorkshire for that matter, are intrinsically linked – it is why York, for example, joined the West Yorkshire Combined Authority last year.

However, on countless occasions previously, the perceived rivalry between Leeds and Sheffield for example, or the belief that countryside communities have little in common with the county’s great cities, have stifled co-operation and created an unfavourable impression in Whitehall. The consequence could be Manchester emerging as the capital of the North because its councils do talk and share ideas for the mutual benefit of the North West.

This must change. For, if Yorkshire’s local authorities want greater powers to help shape the future economic landscape, they need to start looking beyond artificial boundaries that define a council’s jurisdiction. After all, issues pertaining to economic growth, transport, education, healthcare and the rolling out of internet broadband are not exclusive to one area. They are intrinsic to the future of every village, town and city. The regret is that politicians are only now realising that co-operation is key to the economic advancement of the whole county.

Lost in translation

Labour, aspiration and unions

IT speaks volumes about Labour’s state of disarray that John Prescott now feels the need to give leadership candidates object lessons in communication. In a forthright attack, the former Deputy Prime Minister has accused Ed Miliband’s would-be successors of using “meaningless” words like “aspiration” which can become lost in translation. “What the heck does it mean?” he ventured indignantly.

For Lord Prescott’s benefit, it would be wrong to deride well-intended notions like “aspiration” and so on. Without New Labour demonstrating that it was on the side of families who wanted to better themselves, he would not have enjoyed the privilege of serving 10 years as Tony Blair’s deputy. And the reason that Labour lost the election so heavily is because the party pursued the politics of envy and followed an agenda that was hostile towards the country’s wealth-creators as Mr Miliband evoked the crude class warfare of

the past to distinguish between “producers” and corporate “predators”.

In some respects, one of the more pressing challenges confronting Labour is its future relationship with those trade unions who respond to the Tory poll triumph by threatening

a summer of discontent over industrial relations. For, unless the unions pursue a constructive, rather than destructive, relationship with the Government and employers, Lord Prescott’s party will be in the political wilderness for even longer. And that could not be any clearer.

Food for thought

Labels are past their sell-by date

it IS, frankly, scandalous that 15 million tonnes of food goes to waste each year when so many people in the world are suffering from malnutrition. It is a state of affairs made even more unappetising by growing public confusion over labelling information.

The consequence is an unhealthy culture whereby terms like “use by” and “best before” blur into one without people taking time out to consider the subtleties in the terminology. It becomes even more perplexing when supermarkets label produce with phrases like “display by” and “sell by” – these are simply a means to advise staff on the length of time that the items in question should stay on the shelves.

In many respects, this is the legacy of the microwave generation – people whose culinary skills are limited to putting a ready-made meal into the oven rather than using the most priceless value of all, good old-fashioned common sense, to determine whether basic food, like an apple for example, is edible or not.