WHY do London school pupils get twice as much spent on them per head as those in Yorkshire?
Why is it that for every £10 spent in London on infrastructure, Yorkshire gets only £1?
Is it fair that each DUP MP who supports the minority Government earns £100m for his region, yet the 50-plus Yorkshire MPs have no such luck? And, apparently, no power or influence.
It is questions like these that make me question the current situation. Yorkshire people are not whingers, but we do have a sense of fairness and wherever you look, it is clear that we aren’t getting our fair share. We have a bigger population than Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland yet nowhere near the power; it is no surprise that we receive much lower public spending per head.
We have roughly two thirds the population of London, but get nowhere near the level of economic subsidy given to the most affluent part of the country. London received massive funding on the 73-mile Crossrail 1, which was immediately followed by the announcement of the even bigger Crossrail 2.
Imagine what we could do with a fair share – two thirds of the total cost of the two Crossrail projects is £30bn. Maybe Sheffield to Manchester will be connected by more than a single-track road. The 36-mile rail journey between Leeds and Manchester might take less than an hour. Imagine we had an international airport integrated into our road and rail network? Perhaps investment in deep port facilities or improved access to the coast.
We should be proud to stand up and demand fairness. Consider that the City of London was “too big to fail”, yet industries at the heart of Yorkshire communities were deemed too insignificant to save. The woollen mills of West Yorkshire, coal mines, the steel mills and our fishing industry were decimated.
I’m not arguing that these should now be saved, but give us a fair share of education and infrastructure spend and allow us to build something in its place. This is not a demand for charity, but a demand for fairness that allows us to realise our potential.
How do we start to change this unfair reality? Your vote for the two main parties doesn’t work. They both clearly see Yorkshire as important; it allows them to get access to power. Both leaders launched their manifestos in Yorkshire and visited repeatedly in May and June, yet Theresa May didn’t visit once in her first 10 months in office and I don’t think she has visited since. Our 50-plus constituencies are important to them, especially in an era of minority Government, but we are not powerful. For Labour and the Tories, the party will always come first and Yorkshire will come second.
Big-party MPs are vassals to the party machine and may huff and puff at election time, but are in fact powerless. Local promises about hospital closures, fracking, rural neglect and protecting the green belt can never be delivered by either main party. An MP in opposition has no power, yet an MP in power must toe the party line and cannot rock the boat. The only way to get what’s best for Yorkshire and make a positive change is to work with the ruling party, but to be independent of them. The reality is that the DUP has shown you have a significantly greater chance of success if you are not represented by an MP from the ruling parties.
The current distrust of politicians offers a great opportunity for a third party to make ground. I think the Yorkshire Party might be the answer. It eschews the conflict-based system that has corrupted, polarised and divided people and instead focuses on positive engagement. A party that is not tied to archaic left or right-wing principles, but is forward-facing and keen to work with those in power for the greater good of our people.
I like the fact that the Yorkshire Party doesn’t operate a party whip system, so it encourages candidates with shared values but a variety of viewpoints to honestly stand for what they believe in. I like the fact that the Yorkshire Party candidate list seems to closely represent our community in terms of age, race, sexuality and local representation. This is surely a more compelling vision than obstructing for oppositional effect or blind support to demonstrate party loyalty.
Yorkshire is a county of innovators like Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Jet2, Plusnet, Clipper, Hesco and First Direct. A county of gritty go-getters like Jessica Ennis-Hill, Nicola Adams and the Brownlee brothers, or Sir Gary Verity and his Tour De Yorkshire. Our future should be as a welcoming Yorkshire, rich in shared heritage and keen to adapt and adopt new ideas.
We’ve accepted an unfair share for too long. I think now is the time for us to do something about it.
Dylan Thwaites is a Huddersfield-born entrepreneur who sold the internet business Latitude 10 years ago. He retired aged 42 to focus on social enterprise. Most recently, he founded Leeds Fans Utd, the fan group trying to gain a stake in Leeds United. The Yorkshire Party is holding its annual conference in York on Saturday.