Peter Davies: David Cameron risks handing devolved Yorkshire to radical left

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ENGLISH voters could be forgiven for thinking that they elected a Conservative government in May, along with an allegedly Conservative Prime Minister.

Governments are elected to run the country, not hand over huge swathes of the North and Midlands to the control of their political opponents.

And yet this is precisely what David Cameron is about to do, with no mandate, no consultation, no referendum and a complete disregard for the democratic rights of the people.

It is no surprise that David Cameron and George Osborne’s mentors now include former Labour grandees Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Lord Adonis along with Michael Heseltine – the “brains” behind the imposition of powerful mayors whether people want them or not.

The Tories were elected in 2010 on a promise of no more regional government after the debacle in the North East when John Prescott’s obvious lack of local knowledge led to the scheme’s total rejection.

But Mr Cameron learned nothing from this episode and ploughed on with a devious plan to achieve Lord Prescott’s aims by stealth. Straight after his election in 2010, the Tory leader set up Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in specified city regions.

These appeared to be quite attractive propositions involving business people who would hopefully ameliorate the worst excesses of Labour Party activity in places like South Yorkshire.

But many of the businessmen had their own agendas and the quango was ineffectual, wasteful and costly.

By 2013, the LEP had inadvertently paved the way for the combined local authority concept. South Yorkshire councils blindly voted in favour with Doncaster ignoring mayoral opposition and no one bothering to consult the voters.

And now, under Lord Heseltine’s malign guidance, we are to have elected mayors of huge geographical areas including towns and cities which have no common interest and in some cases actively dislike each other.

The new mayors will apparently be figures in the mould of Boris Johnson. This charismatic character is not easily replicated, least of all by the dullards leading many Northern councils. Indeed Mr Cameron himself has chosen the mayor of Manchester, a Labour politician hardly in the Boris mould.

The potential catastrophe of elected mayors in combined authorities is rooted in the 1974 local government reforms in which which effective, well-respected and inexpensive councils were replaced by the bloated monsters we have today.

These have landed us with soaring council tax, hordes of money-grabbing, largely useless councillors and poor, inefficient or non-existent services run by overpaid officers.

Now local democracy is to become even more distant, yet politicians will remain bemused at the electorate’s refusal to vote or engage in the political process.

The recent TV images of George Osborne and South Yorkshire council leaders, in grinning agreement at the planned appointment of a South Yorkshire mayor, must have led most viewers to head for the vomitorium.

It was fairly clear that one of these individuals has set his sights on the new post and formed a cosy relationship with Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron in order to land the spoils and an obscene pay packet.

It was originally agreed that there would be no mayor of South Yorkshire; it is not a sprawling conurbation like Greater Manchester or West Yorkshire and Doncaster in particular has nothing in common with the other towns.

Sheffield has been a financial thorn in Doncaster’s side since 1974 so entering into yet another suicide pact is madness.

But Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne have little or no knowledge of South Yorkshire and it appears that our own political leaders have an equal handicap in this meeting of the democratically challenged.

From 1974 to 1987 when Doncaster’s local government was split between its own council and South Yorkshire County Council, there was almost constant conflict. When the County Council was axed, there was celebration in Doncaster.

Clearly no lessons have been learned and, on top of that, we will no doubt have a mayor elected on a 10 per cent turnout on a par with the fiasco of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

With Jeremy Corbyn now in charge of the Labour Party, it is not impossible that militant Trotskyites will be elected as mayors thanks to the idiocy of a Conservative Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron seems not to have spotted which party presided over the failures of his Northern Powerhouse in the post-war period. But then how is it possible to take seriously a Prime Minister who does not know what Magna Carta means – if he did he might not be acting in this singularly stupid fashion.

Peter Davies is a former Mayor of Doncaster.