Tom Richmond: The ones to watch: we pick the people who will make it a year to remember

ED Miliband or Nick Clegg? Both party leaders have much to prove in 2011, a year that will be dominated by the fallout from the spending cuts.

The former is still trying to establish himself as a creditable Labour leader; the latter faces a challenging time holding the coalition, and the Liberal Democrats, together.

Yet, in some regards, their fate could be decided by their Yorkshire colleagues. If Miliband struggles to make his mark, particularly at Prime Minister's Questions which, rightly or wrongly, sets the political mood, there are plenty who will be prepared to call for the Doncaster MP to make way for Yvette Cooper, the Pontefract and Castleford MP whose talents are, frankly, wasted as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Unlike many on Labour's front bench, she is thriving. Articulate when speaking rather than lecturing, an irritating fault of many of her female colleagues, she also has the organisational skills that Miliband appears to lack. It's why she is a far more creditable leader-in-waiting than her divisive husband Ed Balls, the Shadow Home Secretary.

Clegg, on the other hand, may have great personal chemistry with David Cameron – one of the unexpected political stories of the past 12 months – but their friendship, and coalition, could implode if York-born Vince Cable leaves the Cabinet, either voluntarily or because of one gaffe too many.

It simply does not look possible for the Business Secretary to remain in post. Having dithered over whether to support his own reforms on tuition fees, and now finding himself at odds with the Treasury over bank bonuses, he just does not appear to understand the notion of Cabinet responsibility after speaking his mind to two undercover journalists.

A regular slot on Strictly Come Dancing beckons.

However, some perspective is required. Whatever one's views about the calibre of Britain's politicians, look on the bright side – at least Sarah Palin is not running for office here.

Pity the United States where Palin, the face of the Tea Party movement that has been attracting the support of the disaffected, wants to be the Republicans' Presidential candidate in 2012.

Unsuccessful as John McCain's running mate two years ago, this is a women whose geographical and historical knowledge is so limited that she recently muddled up North and South Korea.

The consequence is that Barack Obama, one of the most underwhelming Presidents of modern times, is likely to remain secure in the White House because of the failure of his opponents to unite behind a creditable candidate who can lead America, and the world, to a more prosperous – and safer – future.

BUSINESS

2011 will be a critical year for the two new bosses at iconic Yorkshire supermarket groups Asda and Morrisons.

All eyes will be on Andy Clarke at Leeds-based Asda and Dalton Philips at Bradford-based Morrisons. Neither can afford to put a step wrong in a year which is expected to start with a return to austerity after the excesses of the Christmas period.

Analysts believe we will see some serious belt-tightening this year – particularly in the North, which will be disproportionately affected by the public sector jobs cull. In addition the increase in VAT tomorrow to 20 per cent will hit both group's non-food sales.

Of the two, Philips has the tougher job ahead of him. The news that Morrisons lost market share in December for the first time since 2007 will have made grim reading for him.

In contrast Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, grew its share of the grocery market for the first time since May while Sainsbury's, the third biggest player, is the fastest-growing of the UK's top four supermarket groups.

Asda, which is second after Tesco, managed to hold its market share for the first time in 2010.

Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, is enjoying a renaissance under Clarke. He will be thrilled that the revamp of the group's own-label range, now called "Chosen by You", is going down so well with customers.

He rightly identified that Asda shoppers had become fed up with the food not meeting the chain's former standards and has set the group back on track.

The return to austerity for people who lose their jobs, or suspect they could be made redundant, will be good news for both Asda and Morrisons, which traditionally cater for the more budget-conscious shopper.

Nevertheless, this promises to be one of the most cut-throat years the grocery sector has ever seen. It could be make or break for both men.

LITERATURE

Sunjeev Sahota – that's the first time we've printed the name, but it is highly unlikely to be the last.

The first-time author sees his novel, Ours Are the Streets, published later this week. It is going to cause a stir.

In the novel, Sahota takes readers inside the minds of Imtiaz Raina, a young man born in Sheffield who has, in Sahota's words, "decided that his vocation in life is to become a martyr for jihad".

The book was inspired by the attacks of July 7, 2005, led by the Leeds-based ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan. Sahota says: "I remember seeing the video of Khan saying goodbye to his daughter. How could this man, get to a stage where he could do something like this? That psychology was something I wanted to explore, what the inside of a man who'd come to that decision would look like."

Publishers Picador are calling it "an extraordinary debut" – not bad considering Sahota, who grew up in Chesterfield, didn't read his first novel until he was 18.

After studying mathematics at Imperial College, London, the 29-year-old obtained a marketing a job that he still holds. With a second novel, also set in Sheffield and about illegal immigrants, already under way, he could be leaving the world of marketing fairly soon.

CULTURE

When he was revealed as the latest actor to take on the role of Heathcliff, the name James Howson was preceded by the word "unknown".

Not for long.

Leeds-based Howson, in his early 20s, is about to follow in the footsteps of Hollywood legends Laurence Olivier, Ralph Fiennes and Timothy Dalton by taking on the iconic role in the latest cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights. The (up until this point) unknown actor was plucked out of obscurity for the role by director Andrew Arnold, who took another unknwon, Katie Jarvis, and turned her into a star courtesy of her previous movie Fish Tank.

Casting the mixed-race actor seems to finally tally with Emily Bront's wishes – the 1847 novel describes Heathcliff as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect and a little lascar" – a 19th century reference to sailors from India.

In the novel, the young Heathcliff is found abandoned at the former slave port of Liverpool by the kindly Mr Earnshaw, who adopts him.

When casting for the film, which was shot around Yorkshire, Arnold and the production team are said to have wandered the streets of Leeds looking for likely "Heathcliffs" and held auditions for young actors with no previous experience.

James Howson's career is only just beginning.

SPORT

In a year that will be dominated, inevitably, by the countdown to the London Olympics, all eyes will be on the pride of Yorkshire, Sheffield's Jessica Ennis, and whether she can live up to the pressure of being the "poster girl" of the 2012 Games.

The omens look good. No less than a judge than Michael Johnson, the record-breaking runner who handled the pressure of being the "local favourite" at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, believes that the heptathlete has matured into one of the world's most formidable competitors – praise indeed from a former champion who is never afraid to chide under-performing British athletes.

After her European success last year, the priority for Ennis will be to successfully defend her world title in Daegu, South Korea, and set down a marker to her opponents.

It would also help if Ennis can improve her javelin throw – the weakest of her seven events. It may make life a little easier for her as she approaches the two years that will define her life.

These are also years of consolidation for Yorkshire's gold medallists from Beijing – rower Andy Hodge, cyclist Ed Clancy and sailor Paul Goodison. They will all be out to earn selection for 2012.

Elsewhere, it will not be the greatest surprise if West Witton trainer Ferdy Murphy wins the Grand National with Big Fella Thanks, even though no locally-trained horse has won the world's greatest steeplechase for 51 years.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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