Tom Richmond: Tory response to flooding a total washout

SILLY me. I thought the Tories were finally getting their act together, and pressing the Government to invest in new flood defences for Yorkshire, when I received a missive from Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh.

It disclosed that Miss McIntosh, the party's flooding spokesman, would be visiting Pickering to investigate how the cleaning-up operation has progressed following the summer deluge.

It was a curious location, but I was prepared to give the MP the benefit of the doubt. And then it dawned on me. Pickering is in the new Thirsk and Malton Parliamentary constituency. And the Tory candidate? Yes, you've guessed it, the one and same Anne McIntosh, who was surprisingly selected ahead of the respected John Greenway, the area's current MP.

I'm not against Miss McIntosh campaigning for the new seat. But what, frankly, astonishes me, is the Tory Party's failure to hold the Government to account following the summer floods.

The failure of the Tory Party to consider the national picture means that the Government is likely to be left off the hook yet again. Even Ming Campbell managed to highlight the issue of flooding in a Lib Dem TV broadcast this week.

If the political roles were reversed, and the Tories were in power, you can be assured that the Labour Party would be relentlessly campaigning on behalf of those communities left devastated by the floods.

It is called the art of opposition – a skill that David Cameron's Conservatives have yet to learn after a decade in the wilderness.

ONE reason why the Conservatives have lost three successive elections is the party's perceived obsession with Europe.

It is a tactical error that they are threatening to repeat. One aide recently told me that the Tories' best chance of winning the next election is if Prime Minister Gordon Brown refuses to hold a referendum on the new EU "constitution".

They should be careful. For Mr Brown is a man of surprises – and I would not put it beyond him to call a snap referendum.

However, this would not necessarily spell good news for the Tories. Even though Labour would, in all probability, lose the vote, Mr Brown would have laid this issue to rest.

Furthermore, the Premier's reputation would be sufficiently enhanced that the gullible electorate would thank Mr Brown for this gesture by electing Labour to a historic fourth term.

MY call for political parties to select a greater number of Parliamentary candidates with Yorkshire roots struck a chord with the family of my old foe John Prescott.

It was particularly resonant with the outgoing Hull East MP's son, David, who has made no secret of his desire to follow his father into politics.

But it was the maturity of Prescott junior's response on his blog that was so refreshing.

"Ward meetings can be off-putting as new members tend to feel a bit excluded and baffled by our arcane agendas and party rules. We don't give them a simple introduction about how our party works," he wrote.

"I think we also need to make these meetings more informal and family friendly. They should feel they're part of a social network."

This is the kind of new thinking that Labour requires if it is to curtail the appointment of "social worker" politicians in this region who have no affinity with Yorkshire, and merely jump to the Government's command.

ON a similar theme, I am not a lone voice in my condemnation of those Yorkshire MPs who stand up in the House of Commons and ask non-contentious questions in order to enhance their career prospects.

Martin Bell, the distinguished former war correspondent and one-time MP, condemned this practice in his quite exceptional new book The Truth That Sticks: New Labour's Breach of Trust.

"The planted question is one of the curses of Westminster, since it denies time to real questions requiring real answers," he said.

"There are more plants to be found in these ministerial sessions than in Gardeners' Question Time."

Take note Mary Creagh and Diana Johnson, Yorkshire's serial offenders.

SO much for BBC impartiality during the next US Presidential election.

Its world affairs editor John Simpson has proclaimed on air that the next occupant of the White House will presumably be a Democrat.

I can only assume that he has access to the election results – 14 months before American voters go to the polls.

HOW refreshing to read an interview with Yorkshire-born chat show king, Michael Parkinson, in which he disclosed how he would never bow to pressure to interview Big Brother contestants.

"Why would we?" he mused. "How interesting are they? What do they have to talk about?" Well said, Parky. How about becoming director-general of the BBC after conducting your final interview this autumn?