HOW times change. After Theresa May was given a Brexit brush-off at last December’s EU summit, she was made to feel more welcome after being given a belated invitation to an informal gathering in Malta where she briefed her European counterparts on her meeting with Donald Trump.
The end of another gruelling week for the Prime Minister dominated by the fallout from President Trump’s draconian travel ban and Parliamentary votes on Article 50, it’s further evidence of Mrs May’s emergence as a world leader who demands respect – she was due to be excluded from this meeting until the agenda was changed at the 11th hour.
Though many believe that she was too slow to condemn the White House for imposing restrictions against passengers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, at least Mrs May has a dialogue with President Trump – Germany’s Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have only been afforded perfunctory telephone calls.
And while Brexit will be a fraught process on both sides, the plain fact of the matter is that the UK and Europe will still need to co-operate on many matters, notably security and defence, after this process and the statesmanship of this Prime Minister prompted America’s newly-inaugurated leader to acknowledge Nato’s enduring importance – a significant concession at a time when Russian antagonism is undermining the West.
Despite the Maltese leader’s disingenuous comments about the UK being a junior partner of both America and EU, the bridge-building Mrs May recognises the importance of close links with both continents when it comes to global security and Nato members committing two per cent of GDP to defence spending in order to protect the freedom and liberty of all. If only others did so too.
Scandal when late trains are on time
AFTER AN ingenious football fan discovered that the cheapest way to travel from Newcastle to Oxford by train last Saturday was to buy 28 separate tickets – and the same number for the return journey back to the North East – the Government and railway industry finally promised to overhaul the system.
Many will say ‘better late than never’ – just like the trains. Now the same transparency test needs to be applied to the publication of reliable information about punctuality after a third of local services were late in parts of Yorkshire last month.
Not that long-suffering passengers on Northern Rail’s services would know this. From the rail industry’s perspective, a train is on time if it reaches its final destination within minutes of its schedule, hence why the headline figure is at such variance with the operator’s actual performance.
For the record, Northern Rail is not alone – the same methodology is applied to every train firm – and there will be occasions when trains are delayed by issues beyond its control, but this blatant sleight of hand is galling on a franchise where above-inflation fare increases coincided with 328 cancelled trains and another 700 running with fewer seats than planned.
The fact that delays here don’t rival the shambles on the strike-hit Southern franchise is no excuse for Northern Rail and the Department for Transport’s inaction. By the end of this month, an action plan should be formulated, published and implemented as well as measures to prevent trains leaving a station when the guard is still on the platform – this week’s embarrassing occurrence.
Sir Ken’s legacy: Original Northern Powerhouse
IT would be remiss not to end this sad week without acknowledging the volume of the public’s affectionate tributes to Bradford-born Sir Ken Morrison – Mr Yorkshire to many – who died unexpectedly on Wednesday.
A down-to-earth character who did not stand on ceremony and who simply liked to be called ‘Ken’, his family – and all those associated with the supermarket that carries his proud name – will draw comfort from the personal recollections which are testimony to the true character of the gentleman grocer.
He had time for everyone – staff, shoppers and suppliers alike – and never lost sight of this when this original Northern Powerhouse, created long before pontificating politicians came up with the concept, was exported to the South following the acquisition of Safeway. Priceless values that went to the core of this success story, they’re also integral to the future success of Morrisons as the food industry mourns a retail pioneer like no other.