Tom Richmond: If Scotland deserves own voice, who speaks for us?

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WHO will fight Yorkshire’s corner in Westminster – and Brussels? A long unanswered question, it has become a tad more urgent after the BBC explained its decision to indulge Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, on Radio Four’s Today programme.

The presenter Evan Davis’s justification was this. Because Scotland is entitled to return six MEPs to Brussels, the SNP leader was allowed a platform to give his views on the European elections and the implications of a ‘yes’ vote in the upcoming independence referendum.

Why does this matter? Because Yorkshire is very comparable politically and economically to Scotland – this region is also in the processing of electing six MEPs – and the BBC’s approach, though valid, is further evidence of the extent to which devolution is marginalising the North.

Some will disagree for various reasons. One argument is that William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is a longstanding North Yorkshire MP. True, but the international dimension to his portfolio limits the time that he can devote to regional matters – the campaign to defy the coalition and protect maternity services at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital is a notable exception.

Others will say that Labour did create a tier of regional ministers under Gordon Brown – Rosie Winterton was the voice of Yorkshire – and that this model should be introduced. Yes, it has merit but one would hope that the collective wisdom of this region’s 50 or so MPs, and those Ministers who had the fortune to be born in God’s own county, would achieve more than the energetic enthusiasm of one well-intended individual on the margins of the Cabinet.

And the coalition will point to the network of local enterprise partnerships, city deals and so on as evidence of David Cameron’s desire to give power back to the people. Yes, but the Treasury did not fully embrace Michael Heseltine’s recommendations – particularly over the transfer of money for new infrastructure projects – and the relationship between local authorities locally is not always a cordial one.

What would I do? I’m reluctant to advocate the creation of another quango or talking shop – ideally Yorkshire needs less governance – but I do think the region’s MPs, including supposed big-hitters like Hague, should be pushing for there to be a greater regional dimension to proceedings at Westminster.

Second, the onus should be on the leaders and chief executives of Yorkshire’s councils, and key public sector bodies, to meet quarterly to discuss issues of mutual concern. If they recognised that many issues transcend local authority boundaries, such as transport and youth training, there is a chance that this will lead to people speaking with far more authority about this region’s needs.

From that, Yorkshire’s answer to Alex Salmond, or Boris Johnson, may just emerge and lay to rest the parochialism that has held back this county for too long.

AS a senior coalition official in occupied Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Rory Stewart is extremely well-qualified to be the next chairman of Parliament’s defence committee. His knowledge of nation-building will be of great benefit to a war-weary country.

Yet, after his election, it was the humility shown by the Cumbrian MP that stood out.

He acknowledged the expertise of his rivals and then told the House of Commons: “I have so much to learn from them. I am a very young and inexperienced new Member and this is a very great honour.”

As such, I hope that this post is just the beginning of a great political career for an independent-minded MP whose Penrith seat was once held with such distinction by Willie Whitelaw, Margaret Thatcher’s first Home Secretary and one of the great consensual politicians of his age.

Politics will be far healthier if more of its practitioners treat their profession with the reverence, and common courtesies, that could be taken for granted in the past.

MY email in-box on Monday was inundated with missives from the Lib Dems begging for £10 to help pay for their election candidate.

I did not respond – for the record, I’m only on their mailing list in my capacity as a member of Her Majesty’s Press Corps.

But it would have helped if they had had the courtesy to deliver an election leaflet to Richmond Towers. They’re the only major party that did not.

While many are blaming Nick Clegg for the poor performance of the Lib Dems, I’m afraid the party’s organisation – or lack thereof – leaves much to be desired.

WHY is it taking a long-winded review, headed by Lord Young, a one-time Trade and Industry Secretary in the 1980s, to decide whether business leaders at school should be more entrepreneurial in order to inspire a new generation of go-getters?

Why is this not happening as a matter of course? I’ll tell you the answer. It’s because education policy is being set by people like the exam experts who say primary-age children must be allowed to use calculators in exams so their confidence is not dented. No wonder so many youngsters can’t do basic arithmetic – or appreciate the value of money.

HYPOCRITE of the week has to be David Cameron after saying that he would have sacked shamed Premier League boss Richard Scudamore for making sexist remarks in a private email. The Prime Minister should have taken a vow of silence. After all, he’s the man who was too weak to dismiss Maria Miller over her expenses misuse before public pressure forced her to quit as Culture Secretary.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk