GP Taylor: David Cameron was right about Yorkshire

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What was once competitiveness within our region has now turned into petty protectionism.

THERE are times in life when the subject of a political rant falls into your lap like a golden apple from a tree. When I heard that my arch nemesis David Cameron had gaffed by accusing the people of Yorkshire hating each other as much as they hated the world I could feel the razor of my words being sharpened.

I listened intently to his statement and was angered not by what he said but the way he said it. As is usual for Dave, he has no understanding of northern life. Very few politicians really can grasp what it is to live and work north of Watford Gap.

Unfortunately they all seem to believe in the long held stereo type that we have flat caps and whippets, drink beer and eat pork scratchings. Nothing can be further from the truth. We in Yorkshire are a vibrant people and world leaders in many fields.

Our culture is welcoming and the varied communities across this vast county live in peace with each other and in no way hate anyone. Yes, we may joke about soft southerners, tight Scotsman and the angry Welsh, but in our hearts we love them all as true one nation people.

If only Cameron would take time to visit us other than for a quick photograph or to tap northern millionaires for money he might understand why he was so badly out of order in his delivery. However, that is where the matter of what he said ends. In his words of ridicule, Cameron had hit on a deep truth.

It was only after listening to him for the third time that the truth of what he said struck home. Reluctantly I have to agree with him. For the first time Cameron had an accidental insight into the current Yorkshire mentality of those who seek to represent us on a national level.

We in Yorkshire are competitive with those in the south and we are also competitive with each other. From football to rugby we desire our local teams to be the best. There is pride in our county but also a greater pride in our towns and villages. It is our greatest strength but in the devolution stakes it is also our greatest weakness.

This weakness has come to the fore in the pursuit in different regions within Yorkshire bidding to be part of the Northern Powerhouse. Unlike Manchester we are hampered by the fact that Yorkshire isn’t really a county but a small country. Economically and sociologically we are on a parr with Scotland. If we were ever to elect a county Mayor, they would be more like a First Minister.

It is because of this vastness that Yorkshire was seen by Cameron to be full of people hating each other. He was aware that the 10 districts of Greater Manchester had put aside their differences years ago to push a united front. They even managed to overturn their disdain for an elected Mayor in the hope of getting their hands on a pot of gold.

In Yorkshire, that sort of coming together appears to be impossible. The once healthy competition between Leeds and the rest of the county now appears to be quite acrimonious. Instead of welcoming the hand that feeds us, it is as if we don’t just want to bite it but gnaw it to the bone.

The only practical devolution bid by a greater Leeds has been scuppered by North Yorkshire refusing to hand over the highway and transport powers for Harrogate, Craven and York. What was once competitiveness has now turned into petty protectionism.

The only people who will suffer is the man and woman in the street. The attitude of many in power is short sighted and naive. What could have been a boost for the county is now fading quickly. I cannot understand why there was never a bid from a greater Yorkshire covering the whole of the county. This would have then satisfied all those involved.

Petty jealousy and greed now appear to prevail, making Cameron quite rightly believe that we in Yorkshire hate each other.

The ideal political situation is not just to be a northern powerhouse, but to push for independent powers granted to Wales and Scotland. Yorkshire is a distinct region with its own culture and customs. It should therefore be granted its own assembly and be self determining in matters of finance, education, policing and welfare.

The current bids for for devolution are doomed to failure. Not because we do not have the capability, but because those in power are so determined to hang on to it that their wilful selfishness will destroy the dream before it is even started.

Yorkshire doesn’t need devolution but revolution. Instead of bickering about each other’s in the far flung corners of the county our politicians need to come together and put our fine county before their political pockets.

• GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.