THREE years after Yorkshire voters rejected the concept of Boris Johnston-style metro mayors, it is now clear that this county’s political and business leaders need to revisit this issue. The reason is this. Even though David Cameron and George Osborne are genuinely committed to empowering the North and turning the region into an economic powerhouse, full devolution will now only be available on Whitehall’s terms.
This was effectively confirmed by the Chancellor when he outlined the full tranche of powers that will be handed to Greater Manchester in return for the North West embracing the mayor model of governance. After signing off deals for Leeds and Sheffield prior to the election that were second-rate in comparison, and then the Prime Minister hinting that these could be revisited, Mr Osborne turned the screw yesterday when he told city leaders: “I will not impose this model on anyone. But nor will I settle for less.”
With Mr Cameron in Scotland today for talks with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, there’s every possibility of Yorkshire losing powers and influence unless the issue of mayors is reconsidered.
It will not be straightforward on two fronts. First the electorate, the most important constituency of all, clearly did not believe in 2012 that the benefits of metro-mayors would outweigh the costs of creating another tier of bureaucracy and the knock-on effects for town halls – structural change is invariably more prohibitive than envisaged.
Second, English devolution should not just be about mayors and big cities. Smaller towns and outlying communities are also looking to Mr Osborne’s much-vaunted powerhouse for the North to provide long-awaited transport and infrastructure improvements.
They are big questions that Yorkshire must now face – that much the Chancellor has made certain.
Farage and the Emperor’s new clothes
NIGEL FARAGE is not the first politician to sport the Emperor’s new clothes. Nor is he likely to be the last. But the Ukip supremo cannot escape the fact that his leadership volte-face has backfired and provoked a power struggle for the heart and soul of the party which does not reflect well on those concerned.
After upholding his promise to step down as leader if he was not elected in Thanet South, Mr Farage should not have agreed to his resignation being rescinded without the matter being put to a vote of the full party membership. How can future utterances of this self-styled “man of the people” be trusted? This U-turn simply gives credence to those who regard the Eurosceptic party as a one-man autocracy.
But it does not end here. As a political force, Ukip is now entitled to £3.5m worth of public funds to assist its Parliamentary work. Yet, despite its opposition to wasteful spending, the party wants this money to be used to pay the salaries of a small army of political researchers – a state of affairs that could prompt its solitary MP, an exasperated Douglas Carswell, to resign.
Less than a year after
his defection from the Tories, he is not alone in expressing disquiet at the party’s modus operandi – economics spokesman Patrick O’Flynn claimed that Mr Farage’s eccentric and now “ultra-aggressive” behaviour risked Ukip being portrayed as an “absolute monarchy”. Yet this implosion masks the fact that Ukip actually won four million votes last week, support that will evaporate unless Mr Farage and his internal opponents can reconcile their differences before this civil war escalates still further.
Top Marks for M&S
Retail giant steps back in time
AS it blossomed into a brand synonymous with British quality known around the world, it became easy to forget that the Marks & Spencer empire started life as a tiny stall on Kirkgate Market in Leeds.
For one night only, the company stepped back in time and returned to its humble roots as a ‘penny bazaar’. The event, part of the Museums at Night initiative, was an inventive way to highlight the famous chain’s origins and bring its rich 130-year history to life.
Despite their early success, neither founder Michael Marks nor his business partner Thomas Spencer could have foreseen the scale of their firm’s future fortunes.
However, the retailing recipe that allowed them to flourish still holds true today. The pair sold quality products sold at reasonable prices and provided first-rate customer service – values honed in Yorkshire and to which Marks & Spencer must stay true if it is to ensure future success.