August 27: Proof Labour is unfit to govern

IF Labour cannot run its own leadership contest with a degree of competence, how can the party expect to win back the trust of voters? It is a question which is becoming increasingly pertinent as the voting process descends into farce as a result of the rules of eligibility being relaxed by Ed Miliband.

Following claims that the election had been hijacked by activists recruited by the left-wing firebrand Jeremy Corbyn who is now the odds-on favourite to prevail on September 12 after being the rank outsider at the outset of the contest, and then allegations that mischief-making Tories had been sent voting papers, there is now the embarrassing episode of Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, being told that his vote had, in fact, been blocked.

What next? Tony Blair, the one Labour leader who knew how to win elections, being blackballed because he does not share the “aims and values” of the party? It cannot be ruled out as Labour lurches from one crisis to another while Mr Miliband, the man responsible for this chaos, continues to abdicate all responsibility – his silence has proved, once and for all, that his party will not be fit to govern for a long time.

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Yet, while the Conservatives are gleeful at the prospect of Mr Corbyn being elected, his leadership should not be under-estimated. For, unlike so many of the male, middle-aged professional political class who blur into one because of their tendency to look and sound the same, it is striking that many activists have actually been turned away from the front-runner’s public meetings and rallies because they have been so over-subscribed – when was the last time that this happened on a regular basis?

Of course the politics and economics of the past are not the answer to the problems of the present, but it is to Mr Corbyn’s credit that he has found away to engage with the masses. That can only benefit future participation in the democratic process – the question now is how the Tories, and Labour for that matter, respond to the arrival of Corbynomics.

Rearguard action

Safeguarding the rural economy

AT least James Wharton, the Minister charged with implementing the Northern Powerhouse, recognises the importance of the rural economy. Unlike so many of his colleagues, he has made clear that countryside communities are intrinsic to any devolution deal that might be agreed in the coming weeks.

This is particularly important following the recent disclosures that West Yorkshire’s five metropolitan counterparts want to team up with Selby, York, Harrogate and Craven councils and develop policies that will benefit those who live in the so-called Leeds travel-to-work area – they appear not to sufficiently respect the potential of the rest of North Yorkshire, or the east of the county for that matter.

Yet, while Mr Wharton is right to stress that the final framework should be determined locally rather than in Whitehall, it is equally important that the final settlement benefits the whole county – this region is at its strongest when its leaders are pulling in the same direction rather than duplicating this effort by competing for the same funding. If it wasn’t for the area’s three national parks and spectacular coastline, Yorkshire’s cities and towns would not be such attractive places to live and work. Conversely, the county’s rural economy would be much the poorer without the wealth generated from urban areas. As such, it would be regrettable if this relationship was compromised by those who seek to divide and rule.

Rules of the road

Police seize uninsured Bentleys

the number of uninsured cars being seized from West Yorkshire’s streets each year will, hopefully, provide food for thought for those critics who took to social media to claim that police officers “spend time eating doughnuts” rather than catching criminals. More than 4,000 vehicles have been taken off the region’s roads in each of the last three years. They’re not just the stereotypical “bangers” driven by ubiquitous “boy racers” – the latest haul includes two Bentleys, 92 BMWs and 128 Audis.

Given that driving without insurance is a criminal offence, and premiums paid by law-abiding motorists locally now rank amongst the highest in the country, this is precisely the type of proactive policing which should be applauded – Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology makes it far easier to enforce the rules of the road. After all, preventative policing is as important as responding to burglaries, a point that has been lost on the constabulary’s critics.