December 5: David Cameron’s 10 years at the top

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Still the right man for Britain

THE David Cameron of today is very different to the fresh-faced MP who was entrusted with the leadership of the Conservative party exactly 10 years ago. Then he was an unproven novice who was not expected to be any match for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who were dominating the political landscape. Now he is a respected international statesman after leading the Tories, the natural party of government, back to high office from the electoral wilderness.

It’s not always been a smooth journey. First, Mr Cameron had to convince a suspicious and sceptical party that it had to become more compassionate if it was to broaden its support base – and then he had to forge a coalition with Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems in 2010 when the electorate opted not to give the Tories the mandate that was expected in the wake of the banking crisis and implosion of the Brown government.

Yet it is testament to Mr Cameron that he has had the strength of character to emerge from every challenge, political or personal, with even greater resolve to do his best for his country. Yes, he has made mistakes – all leaders do – but it should be remembered that he was greeted, on entering 10 Downing Street, by an unprecedented budget deficit and a terrorist threat which remains unparalleled and necessitated this week’s difficult decision to extent the scope of RAF air strikes against Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, to Syria.

The Prime Minister has proved, so far, to be the right man for the times. His challenge now is making sure that his One Nation and Northern Powerhouse agendas do actually make a lasting difference to the whole of Yorkshire, and especially those areas of this county which continue to pay a heavy price for the decline of traditional manufacturing histories. If he does, it will not just be the Conservative party who will be in Mr Cameron’s debt.

Train of thought: Railways must offer more value

GIVEN that train fares have risen by over quarter over the past five years, there will be widespread relief that the cost of tickets will only be increasing by an average of 1.1 per cent in the new year. The only consolation to passengers is that they have been spared a further hike because prices are linked to inflation.

Yet, while rail industry leaders attribute the pegging of fares to the revenue generated from the record number of passengers who travel by train and the scaling back of management overheads, there is still a sense that commuters – and particularly those who pay for the privilege of standing on antiquated carriages – are regarded as an inconvenience.

However it should be pointed out that the railways are a public service, still heavily subsidised by taxpayers, and that the train operators, and bodies like Network Rail, must not be allowed to lose sight of this. It is disappointing that information can still be piecemeal when services are disrupted and that there is still insufficient transparency when it comes to ticketing prices – families should not have to take out a mortgage if they want to travel to London and have not been able to make their booking many months in advance.

Moving forward, it is imperative that the Government reflects the expectations of passengers when it awards the new franchises for the Northern and TransPennine Express routes. These deals must include cast-iron commitments to provide sufficient carriages on the most overcrowded services so Yorkshire travellers can, finally, enjoy the quality of service provided to commuters in London.

‘Use it or lose’ it - Small Business Saturday priceless

BEHIND every small business is a personal story – whether it be the corner shop or one of the priceless independent stores whose presence adds so much value, and vitality, to Yorkshire’s high streets. They stand testament to the vision, and determination, of their proprietor to provide a valued service despite the retail industry being changed by the dominance of the major supermarkets and the internet revolution.

It’s also important in this age of convenience, when it is so easy for consumers to shop online or at an open-all-hours superstore, that such enterprise is not taken for granted. These stores cannot survive without the continued support of customers, hence why Small Business Saturday is striving to raise awareness about the contribution that independent shops make to the fabric of the country. Just like those libraries, pubs and post offices now fighting for their existence in this changing world, the ‘use it or lose it’ motto has never been more applicable.