EVEN THOUGH Transport Secretary Chris Grayling specifically promised extra money to upgrade the notorious A64 during the election campaign, there are no guarantees that this will ever happen.
Just like the traffic jams that continue to grow each year between York and Scarborough, Mr Grayling is just the latest in a long list of politicians to make such overtures before these good intentions grind to a halt.
And while proceeds from Vehicle Excise Duty are to be put aside to pay for new bypasses and improvements to the most important A-roads, Yorkshire remains firmly stuck in the slow lane when it comes to the distribution of Government funds.
This is why today’s launch of the new A64 Growth Partnership is significant in more ways than one. Instead of making a politically-driven argument, it will place the need for action in an economic context by highlighting how future investment in the area depends on improved road access. The opportunities are extensive – but they will all result in increased traffic.
By bringing together business and political leaders from across Yorkshire, it demonstrates the wider strategic importance of this route. And it appears more realistic than previous initiatives. There’s probably a greater likelihood of the route from York to Malton being widened alongside safety measures at other junctions – four people have been killed in two separate accidents in recent weeks. Planned measures at York’s Hopgrove Roundabout simply don’t go far enough.
That said, this will only happen if the most convincing business case possible is put together. If it demonstrates, conclusively, that the taxpayer will receive a significant return on its investment in the form of new jobs and prosperity in a neglected area of the country, it will, in turn, reveal whether Ministerial promises about the North are sincere – or not.
The blame game
SIMPLY PLAYING the political ‘blame game’ will not inspire public confidence in the ability of Ministers to preside over Britain’s exit from the European Union.
After Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the Commons and a prominent Brexiteer, urged the media to be more patriotic, her colleague Liam Fox went further by claiming that “some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed”.
The reason that Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, is facing such scrutiny is because the issue at stake is not the egos of self-centred politicians, but the UK’s future prosperity.
It is, right, therefore that those concerned face robust questioning – especially as the politicians who advocated Brexit, like Dr Fox and Mrs Leadsom, seem far less assured when it comes to implementing their principled rhetoric.
For Dr Fox to accuse the BBC and others of couching good economic news with disparaging terms like ‘despite Brexit’ is not only disingenuous for a seasoned politician who should be cable of holding his own in debate, but detracts from the important message that he wanted to get over – namely an increase in overseas companies investing in the UK.
And here is the irony. As Dr Fox was making his claim in the Commons yesterday, the House of Lords was being warned that Brexit will “undoubtedly” damage the UK’s ability to exert influence in foreign affairs. For the record, the proposition wasn’t being advocated by a journalist; it was being espoused by no less than a figure than William Hague, a former Foreign Secretary and one-time colleague of Liam Fox.
Art of Yorkshire
THE people of Yorkshire might be known for calling a spade a spade but, historically, the region has been uncharacteristically shy when it comes to shouting about its significant cultural achievements.
Not any more. Less than 24 hours after The Hepworth Wakefield was named Art Fund Museum of the Year, further cementing its reputation as a gallery of national importance, the long-awaited celebration of David Hockney finally opened in Bradford’s Cartwright Hall.
Some might wonder why it has taken until the artist’s 80th year for the city to unveil a permanent tribute to its most famous son, but that’s a question for another time.
Both The Hepworth, founded to house the work of Wakefield-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth and many others, and Cartwright Hall, are fitting tributes to two home-grown artists who took a little bit of Yorkshire to the rest of the world. And, right now, that feels like something worth celebrating.