Tom Richmond: Maybe it’s time for Boris to bring his ideas North

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IF Boris Johnson is looking for a suitable role once his second term as Mayor of London ends next year, perhaps he could be charged with overseeing the economic renaissance of Yorkshire?

There will, of course, be some people who will scoff at such a prospect after the Old Etonian’s campaign visit to Yorkshire on Wednesday – why should this region trust a man whose pursuit of transport funding for London has been at the North’s expense?

Yet such a stance misses the point. Mr Johnson appears to be a reformed animal as he seeks innovative new ways to secure the finance for a new £27bn railway line in the capital. He wants to keep the rates paid by new businesses that open along the route, and also a share in the stamp duty generated by property transactions in London.

He also believes this holds the key to transforming the fortunes of Northern cities. While Leeds waits to see if it has fared any better than Sheffield in negotiations with the Treasury, Mr Johnson would go further.

“It is time for British cities to grow up to be given more responsibilities for the taxes they yield, and to plan and build the infrastructure they need,” he observed this week with reference to the creaking state of the household boiler at Johnson Towers.

“We can patch up our roads and our rail; we can make do and mend – but unless we unlock local financing of long-term infrastructure, the system will one day seize up like a poor old put-upon boiler.”

He’s right. Why should Yorkshire’s cities play second fiddle to the rest of the country – despite the political progress that has been in recent months? And why should the expertise of Mr Johnson not be utilised? After all, he knows his way around the corridors of power better than most and he also knows that the Tories cannot secure an overall majority without the support of the North.

BORIS Johnson is not the only aspiring Tory leader who has been speaking out this week on matters pertaining to Yorkshire.

Perhaps the more surprising intervention was Home Secretary Theresa May’s reported backing of those Conservative MPs who were campaigning for the one and only Geoffrey Boycott to receive a knighthood.

I’m surprised at Mrs May’s decision to go into bat for the legendary cricketer when her remit includes domestic violence – and when the former batsman has a well-documented conviction for assaulting a former partner in France.

It’s either part of a concerted effort by Mrs May to ingratiate herself with Tories in the North ahead of a possible leadership challenge, or a rare misjudgment on the part of a politician famous for her footwear who has run the Home Office with sure-footedness for the past five years.

Time will tell.

IT is to Britain’s advantage that Cabinet Ministers can be summonsed to the House of Commons on a daily basis to answer questions on unexpected occurrences, and Monday was no exception when Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin spent nearly an hour being quizzed about the Christmas rail chaos on the East Coast main line.

Despite accusations from his opposite number Michael Dugher – the Barnsley East MP – that he was asleep on the job, the Minister said it was not his job to micro-manage Network Rail over engineering projects and whether they can be completed on time; that, he said, were questions for industry experts.

The one question, however, that Mr McLoughlin did not answer was the one posed by Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh about the budget from which fines and compensation will be paid. As she said, it is perverse that money allocated for improvements is now being paid out to passengers who were inconvenienced.

I’D be slightly more amenable to Labour’s daily criticisms of the NHS – and A&E waiting times – if the party had not allowed family doctors to exempt themselves from out-of-hours provision. I walked past my GP surgery over the festive period and it was shut for four consecutive days.

As for the scaremongering Andy Burnham’s preposterous claim that the Health Service is not safe in David Cameron’s hands because of deteriorating care, a two-word riposte will suffice: Mid Staffs.

After all, the hypocritical Burnham does not like being reminded of the fact that he was Health Secretary at the time of one of the most shocking scandals in the NHS and failed to hold to account those executives who were content for dehydrated patients to sip water out of flower vases on their watch.

SCOTTISH Labour says it will fund 1,000 extra nurses north of the border via a mansion tax levied on properties worth more than £2m in England. Is this Shadow Cabinet policy and can Ed Miliband tell us if his party has further plans to fleece the English? Voters have a right to know.

IT’S nice to know Barack Obama is content to spent the rest of his underwhelming presidency playing golf. He’s devoted 1,000 hours to 214 rounds since being elected in 2008, and hopes to break 80 by the end of his second term. Perhaps Obama’s greatest achievement was being the first black president to be elected to the White House in the first place. After all, he does not seem bothered about securing a meaningful legacy – such as a more peaceful Middle East.

NOT only is Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew struggling to utter the words “David Cameron” in his election literature but his Labour rival Jamie Hanley has a similar wobbly moment when it comes to “Ed Miliband” judging by his latest election tome.

If they’re not enamoured with their respective leaders, who is?

NOW that the Football Association has failed in its quest for a headline sponsor for the FA Cup, there’s now no reason why it cannot heed my call and rename the competition in honour of Yorkshire legend Donald Simpson Bell, the only footballer to be honoured with a VC in World War One.

What’s stopping the FA?


tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk