THE only consolation to David Cameron is that it is not just the Tory party which is divided over the EU referendum.
The same applies to Labour after both John Mann and Dennis Skinner confirmed they were backing Brexit as Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, accused the party’s hierarchy of not trying hard enough to convince core supporters to vote to stay in the European Union.
The June 23 poll is certainly throwing up some unlikely alliances, not least Mr Skinner – one of the few working-class MPs at Westminster and a long-time scourge of the Tory party’s rich and aristocratic elite – finding himself on the same side of the argument as Mr Johnson, who was a contemporary of the Prime Minister at both Eton and Oxford University.
However, the next fortnight could not be more crucial to Mr Cameron and his place in history. If Britain remains in the EU by a convincing majority, he will be able to remain in 10 Downing Street until the end of the Parliament. If the result is close, or the Brexiteers triumph, his days will almost certainly be numbered.
Yet, while the PM played down the significance of Tory splits when he visited The Yorkshire Post on Thursday, they were exposed in the subsequent ITV debate when Amber Rudd, the combative Energy Secretary and prominent Remain campaigner, scolded the aforementioned Mr Johnson for only being interested in his own leadership ambitions. She was also scathing of Andrea Leadsom, her number two at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. If this is a foretaste of upcoming blue on blue exchanges, the post-referendum period is likely to be as challenging for Mr Cameron as his actual EU renegotiation and also the campaign itself.
Triathlon triumph: Leeds is capital of the world
IF Yorkshire is the home of cycling, then Leeds is the triathlon capital of the world as the sport’s biggest names look to put down a marker prior to the Rio Olympics. The first time that the British leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series has been held outside London, live television coverage in more than 20 countries will bring international attention to Leeds and, hopefully, show the investment opportunities that exist in a proud and resurgent city.
Of course, Leeds would not be hosting a sporting event of this magnitude if it wasn’t for the incomparable Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. Brothers, role models and Yorkshire ambassadors like no other, it is their exploits which mean they get the chance to compete in their own back yard, while it is their dedication, and friendly rivalry, which has led to so many of the UK’s top triathletes choosing to base themselves in Leeds.
As the Brownlees are the first to admit, their success wouldn’t be possible without world-class sports and training facilities while the city council deserves praise for going for gold and not only prizing a global event like this out of London’s grasp, but having the foresight – and vision – to stage a weekend of triathlons for youngsters and all those novices who have embraced this endurance sport. Let’s hope crowds line the streets in sufficient numbers to more than justify the local authority’s faith – and ensure that Leeds hosts this World Series event for the foreseeable future.
Best of the best: Honouring county’s local heroes
THIS weekend’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday – and the indefatigable Duke of Edinburgh’s 95th yesterday – will be even more special for all those local heroes being honoured by Her Majesty. Without their self-sacrifice, Yorkshire, and the rest of Britain, would be a much poorer place. They are the best of the best and an inspiration to so many.
The one regret is that the powers-that-be chose not to make the most of this landmark in Royal history by honouring 90 community stalwarts from each and every borough, or Parliamentary constituency, in the country. Not only would this have been a fitting way to mark the Queen becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, but it would have countered the honour system’s subtle shift in favour of celebrities in recent times.
Though there are many personalities from the world of showbusiness and sport who use their fame and fortune to champion causes close to their heart, the honours should be about recognising the humble, salt-of-the-art individuals who make a difference in their local community.
It would be regrettable if these people were overlooked – or simply given a British Empire Medal rather than a MBE or OBE – because the system has been allowed to become too hierarchical for its own good.