Tom Richmond: Trains or planes, we need links that mean business

There could be extra flights between Leeds Bradford Airport and Heathrow if a third runway is built at London's main airport.

There could be extra flights between Leeds Bradford Airport and Heathrow if a third runway is built at London's main airport.

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THE promise of extra flights between Leeds Bradford Airport and Heathrow needs to be placed in a wider political context.

They will only happen if the Government consents to a controversial third runway at Heathrow and this ‘sweetener’ is intended to increase the pressure on Theresa May as her commitment to the Northern Powerhouse is questioned.

The issue is so complex that the Prime Minister is considering the unusual step of giving all MPs a free vote in order to avoid embarrassing Cabinet splits – a number of senior politicians, including the Tory leader, represent constituencies which are directly under the airport’s flight path.

From a business point of view, improved transport links between Yorkshire and the rest of the country are important – whether it be direct flights to and from the capital or the promised improvements to the Cross Country rail network after Arriva was granted a franchise extension last week.

With this region’s future economic prosperity even more important as a result of Brexit, specifically the need for wealth-creators to invest in Yorkshire rather than London or the South East, this region cannot afford to wait two decades – or longer – for HS2 to be built.

It does need better road, rail and air links in the interim while also making sure that potential infrastructure improvements in this region – such as a high-speed rail link from Hull to Liverpool or the expansion of Doncaster Sheffield Airport – are fully explored and given as much attention as the Government is devoting to, say, Heathrow or the expansion of Crossrail in London.

After all, both Yorkshire schemes do also have the economic potential to benefit the whole of the country, a point that Ministers have still to recognise and which local political leaders now need to make even more forcefully and convincingly.

I’M afraid the management of Leeds Bradford Airport continues to disappoint, as so many readers of The Yorkshire Post continue to testify.

There was a missive last week from PR and public affairs manager Kayley Worsley suggesting a piece from her counterparts at Heathrow on why a third runway is critical to regional airports.

Fair enough – she wasn’t to know that this newspaper carried an article on this very issue 12 months ago from Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye. What was disappointing, however, was an invitation inviting LBA to respond the concerns of travellers about its facilities, and standard of service, went unanswered.

LEEDS Bradford Airport does have one fan – former England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster who commutes between Yorkshire, where his young family live, and Dublin.

“We have a day off tomorrow and there’s a 6.30am flight which gets me into Leeds Bradford at 7.15am so I can be home in time to take the kids to school,” he eulogises.

“It’s incredible, really. Thursday morning, there’s a 6.30 flight back and with a taxi I can be at my desk for 8.10.”

I’ll remind him of that when his plane is grounded because of a couple of flakes of snow.

A politician in the making? Three-time Olympic rowing champion Andrew Triggs Hodge, who hails from the Dales village of Hebden, was in fine form at the Tory conference, telling delegates that community facilities and volunteers need to be in place to energise all those inspired by Team GB’s heroics in Rio. He said: “The great critique after London was that not enough clubs were ready for that boost and we’ve got to make sure that never happens again.” Let’s hope Ministers 
were listening rather than posing for selfies. It was gold medal advice.

IN his new book Politics Between The Extremes, Nick Clegg reveals the farce that took place in 10 Downing Street when the Lib Dems joined the Tories in Britain’s first peacetime coalition.

Told that he could not use his laptop on grounds of national security, the Deputy Prime Minister tried to get down to the important business of government. “There was a desktop computer in the office, but it sat there forlorn and unused for the next five years, because Whitehall still did most of its work, extraordinarily, on paper,” he moaned.

A PIQUED Nick Clegg is clearly unhappy that Winston Churchill consented to the rebuilding of the House of Commons chamber, and Parliament, after it was bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

Britain’s wartime leader, says Mr Clegg, said a conversational style of debating required a small space which now only services to amplify the noise as MPs harangue each other.

“At least Winston Churchill did not have to speak, as I once did, with Jack Straw gurning hysterically at me, his eyes wide and his face bright red as he counted out the (incorrect!) number of my supposed sexual conquests on his fingers,” he added.

How unedifying.

TALKING of Winston Churchill, is there not now a case for some of his iconic phraseology, like “the finest hour”, being patented so they are not cheapened by their misuse? Describing a very moderate sporting success, or someone just doing their job, as their “finest hour” simply does a disservice to those RAF pilots who did win the Battle of Britain.

It’s bad enough that David Cameron’s newly-knighted press spokesman (Sir) Craig Oliver is thought worthy of the same honour that was bestowed by HM Queen on Sir Winston in 1953.

ON the subject of great leaders, 
Ken Clarke’s memoirs reveal how he, and another junior Minister, 
dared to question Margaret Thatcher about the feasibility of liberating the Falklands in 1982: “She strode over to 
me and jabbed me firmly in the chest saying: ‘Politics is about taking risks, my dear boy’.”

TALKING of Ken Clarke, the most startling revelation of 2016 is that David Cameron never discussed “his startling and catastrophic decision to a call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in Cabinet”.

Talk about how not to run a country....

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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