IS THIS it? After being implored to join his Shadow Cabinet colleagues in a show of unity ahead of next week’s EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn’s long-delayed endorsement was so half-hearted that it is hardly going to convince Labour activists to vote Remain on Thursday week.
Despite Mr Corbyn highlighting the importance of migration to the NHS, a very valid point, the Labour leader’s position is an invidious one because he actually opposed Britain’s membership of the EEC in 1975 and has still to fully explain his volte-face.
No wonder traditional Labour voters in the North, fed up at being taken granted by the party’s metropolitan elite, appear not to be listening and will, contrary to Mr Corbyn’s wishes, vote for Brexit on June 23 because concerns on immigration have gone unheeded for so long.
Why should they trust a leader who, true to form, is following the debate? Though Mr Corbyn highlighted yesterday the importance of the EU in upholding the rights of workers, it’s nearly two weeks since TUC leader Frances O’Grady wrote on the very issue in The Yorkshire Post. Where has he been? Blaming Tory infighting simply won’t wash – this is supposedly one of the most important decisions facing the country for a generation and his PR event yesterday smacks of tokenism and little else.
And then are the mixed messages being spoken by senior figures like Ed Balls, who was Shadow Chancellor before losing his Morley seat at the last election. He is backing the Remain campaign while challenging the EU to “restore proper borders and put new controls on economic migration”. Given how the latter is non-negotiable from the EU’s standpoint, and how Mr Corbyn’s endorsement lacks conviction, it’s not just the Tories facing a major rebuilding exercise after the referendum. The same also applies to a rudderless Labour party.
Town and country: Fair funding for rural areas
THE numerous challenges facing this county’s rural heartlands should not detract from the fact that records are expected to be set in the livestock classes at next month’s Great Yorkshire Show – a statistic which is testament to the farming industry’s resilience.
It also needs pointing out that Yorkshire’s market towns, villages, parishes and hamlets are also blessed by a strong sense of community – the Good Neighbours Scheme in Huttons Ambo is just another example of publicly-spirited people going the extra mile to help others.
However it is self-evident that many countryside communities are continuing to pay the price for spending cuts and the failure of successive governments, Tory and Labour alike, to recognise that it costs more to provide education, NHS and care services in rural areas.
This is the central thrust of the latest intervention by Rural Action Yorkshire. It believes the spending crisis is so great that there is a likelihood that services will diminish in those more prosperous market towns, and in addition to those more isolated rural communities which have already lost amenities that are still taken for granted in urban areas.
Moving forward, two things now need to happen. First, the Government must ensure that there is fairer funding for rural areas – its residents are taxpayers too. Second, the economic challenges – and untapped potential – of the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and surrounding communities must not be overlooked when it comes to devolution and the future leadership, and governance, of this region as a whole.
A goal for schools
THE quandary facing headteachers over tomorrow’s Euro 2016 football match between England and Wales – and whether pupils should skip lessons in order to watch the big match – is not a new one. When England played Tunisia in the 1998 World Cup, again in France, the peerless presenter Des Lynam began ITV’s coverage with this great line “Good afternoon, shouldn’t you be at work?” before winking slyly at the camera.
If a majority of youngsters want to watch the game, and it does not disrupt those taking exams and so on, why shouldn’t they?
If it can be justified as a reward for good behaviour, all the more reason for schools being flexible. The regret is that the school curriculum is so rigid, and the morale of teachers so low, that the opportunity can’t be used for lessons about those footballers who made the ultimate sacrifice in two world wars or the importance of sporting role models. If that happened, it would be a ‘win, win’ before a ball is even kicked in Lens.