IF LABOUR was a credible and competent opposition party, it would be running five or more high-profile campaigns this summer championing the plight of the sick, poor and victims of injustice as Theresa May’s fledgling Government looks to find its feet.
Even though this would help the Opposition to find its equilibrium, it is doing nothing of the sort. One year after a protracted struggle to elect Ed Miliband’s successor, Labour is now embroiled in an undignified battle of wills between the party’s MPs who are largely dismissive of Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre leadership and those activists who remain supportive.
However, it should not be like this as the little known Welsh MP Owen Smith, the challenger to Mr Corbyn, makes a symbolic visit to Orgreave, scene of bitter clashes in the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, when he is likely to repeat many of the same-old platitudes rather than coming up with a number of clearly-defined policies that could make a material difference to the lives of the less well-off.
There is no shortage of policy fields which continue to cause widespread dismay – the shortage of qualified teachers highlighted so eloquently by York headteacher John Tomsett this week; the financial crisis afflicting care of the elderly because of spending cuts and rip-off rail fares are three obvious examples. There are many more. Yet, while some Labour MPs from Yorkshire are running effective campaigns on those issues most pertinent to their constituents, there is little or no national leadership other than Mr Corbyn voting against his own party’s pre-determined policy position on the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.
The internal strife is so counter-productive that Mr Corbyn’s party has become a sideshow – and that it is local authority chief executives who are having to grapple with the consequences of inadequately-funded schools or carers who cannot spend sufficient time with the elderly, or housebound, because of time and financial restraints. This cannot be right, can it? These difficulties will only exacerbate unless the direction of Government policy is challenged – and this should be Labour’s duty. If Mr Corbyn and his party cannot settle their differences, the national interest might demand that they go their separate ways – and sooner rather than later.
Force for good
THE APPOINTMENT of Stephen Watson as chief constable of the embattled South Yorkshire force can be interpreted in one of two ways. Some might say it is mission impossible – akin to Sam Allardyce’s appointment as England football manager – because of the cumulative fallout from a succession of past and present scandals, not least Hillsborough, Orgreave, Rotherham and Sir Cliff Richard.
Others will say the timing of Mr Watson’s appointment provides an opportunity for South Yorkshire Police to make a fresh start, and it is this argument which needs to hold sway as some politicians at Westminster call for the tarnished force to be disbanded and replaced with a new body.
Contrary to popular perception, South Yorkshire Police is not rotten to the core – the majority of officers are a credit to the policing profession and are frustrated that their work, and relationship with law-abiding members of the public, is still being undermined by events beyond their control.
However, it can be argued that the constabulary is rotten from the core; namely the failure of a succession of senior officers to uphold standards of integrity when searching questions have been asked of the police’s response to the aforementioned controversies. And this is Mr Watson’s most important challenge. Not only does he need to change his force’s internal culture, but he needs to change perceptions and this will require the unflinching support of the public and all those agencies whose work is intrinsic to effective policing.
As such, everyone has a stake in ensuring that Mr Watson becomes a force for good in time.
Show of support
LIKE the rest of Yorkshire, farming is much changed since the very first Ryedale Show 150 years ago. Yet agriculture still remains the staple diet of the North Yorkshire economy, hence the show of support to mark a special landmark in the event’s history which saw a prestigious award handed to the area’s former MP Ann McIntosh.
And, while the Great Yorkshire Show will always be this county’s showpiece event, smaller events like this remain vital to raising awareness about the work of farmers and continuing importance of local produce. Here’s to the next 150 years.