Tom Richmond: Truss is just the sort of MP Tories need to encourage

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IT was striking, after highlighting the dearth of female Tory MPs in Yorkshire last weekend, to listen to Elizabeth Truss give a candid interview about her work driving up school standards – and the lessons that Britain can learn from Shanghai.

Truss was keen to point out that she went to a Leeds comprehensive and her Wikipedia entry, presumably endorsed by the junior Education Minister, makes an interesting aside about her time at Roundhay School: “She lived in Canada for a year, and contrasts the competitive attitude in schooling there with the ‘trendy’ education she received in 
Leeds.”

I’m sure it would have been edited if she didn’t subscribe to this view.

Yet, while Truss was clearly well-travelled during her childhood before going to Oxford and ultimately becoming the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk at the last election, why are such able Tory women having to leave this county in order to pursue their political ambitions?

After all, Truss did stand for Parliament in Hemsworth and Calder Valley in the 2001 and 2005 elections respectively while working for companies like Shell and Cable & Wireless. Why did Yorkshire Tories dismiss her efforts?

She’s not alone – Justine Greening, the current International Development Secretary, grew up in Rotherham. Yet she now represents the London suburb of Putney in Parliament.

If the Tories are to broaden their support base in this region’s key marginals, they do need to become more female-friendly – the party’s slate of candidates need to represent all sections of Yorkshire and not just white, middle-class men.

That said, it was heartening to hear Truss – who actually hails from Paisley in Scotland – has not lost touch with her Yorkshire roots.

She had no truck for those who oppose her efforts to drive up standards in basic literacy and numeracy. Roundhay School obviously left a lasting impression.

She was adept when the BBC’s John Pienaar tried to challenge her about the lack of women on the Tory front bench – she talked about the ‘march of the red princes’ after Neil Kinnock’s son Stephen was selected to a safe Labour seat in South Wales.

And she was also dismissive of Pienaar when he pushed her repeatedly on any leadership ambitions of her own, and how she is perceived by some as a future Prime Minister. She saw this trap coming.

In short, there was much to admire about Elizabeth Truss during her interview on Pienaar’s Politics. She is going places. More’s the pity that she’s not an MP for Yorkshire because this is the type of person – a mother, career woman and politician – who the party need to cherish and encourage.

AT least Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage discussed Europe, with their hour-long debate far more satisfactory than Prime Minister’s Questions.

Yet, given the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis, why did the Commons empty after PMQs on Wednesday moments before David Cameron gave an update on this foreign affairs crisis?

I’m afraid it did not reflect well on Parliament as it struggles to retain its relevance.

FAIR play to Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield who stood up in the House of Commons this week and challenged Whitehall ministries to move to the provinces. At the end of another bruising week for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader could do worse than listen to his backbencher’s argument.

CRITICS of Morrisons, like myself, have been vindicated after chief executive Dalton Philips waived his £347,000 bonus because of poor performance. However it will be token gesture unless his shops start doing the basics, like stocking semi-skimmed milk.

After all, I thought Morrisons was a supermarket. Perhaps I am mistaken.

DESPITE pleading poverty, the profligacy of Leeds Council continues to surprise me.

The other day, this year’s council tax bill arrived in the post – together with an explanation for the 1.99 per cent increase.

The following day, the council propaganda sheet About Leeds was posted through the letterbox. Its main item, headlined ‘Council’s tough decision’, was a rambling whinge about cuts in government grants that necessitate savings of £50m this year.

Yet, while I note that the Labour-controlled authority is now knocking the publication on the head about two years after I challenged it to do so, I’m not surprised they’re in this predicament if this is emblematic of the leadership of its weak councillors and senior officers.

A WORD or two of advice to Joe Root, the Yorkshire and England batsman. Ignore your PR handlers – they clearly don’t live in the real world – and be yourself.

I write after reading Root’s interview about England’s disastrous tour of Australia in which he offered this insight into Jonathan Trott’s medical condition: “It’s not to nice hear that Trotty wasn’t at his best.”

Or Kevin Pietersen’s impact on team morale? “I don’t know masses about the subject,” observed Root.

After reading this, it did make me wonder what Root was doing while he was on tour. After all, he wasn’t scoring any runs in the middle.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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