DRIVING home across country from Manchester to avoid the traffic of the M62, I came across a welcome sight. In the middle of nowhere was the sign that told me I was home. YORKSHIRE. Underneath some local bard had scribed the words: “Like Lancashire BUT better...”
Since the Battle of Bosworth there has been a rivalry between these two great counties. Now it appears that our Lancashire neighbours are about to score yet another victory.
When George Osborne announced the importance of a Northern powerhouse and greater devolved powers, eyes automatically turned to Manchester. I have to admit it is a great city, but its pretensions as the capital of the North should be fought vigorously.
Where Lancashire and Manchester have scored valuable points in the race for power is cohesion. Unlike Yorkshire, they immediately decided they would bring the various authorities together and go with the idea of being governed by a mayor.
Sadly in Yorkshire, division seems to rule and the age-old rivalries of Leeds against Sheffield appear to have come to the fore. Leaders in West Yorkshire have agreed to press ahead with a devolution plan focused on the area known as the Leeds City Region. In their clamour for power they forget that Yorkshire will only truly thrive as a united region under an elected mayor.
The county has to reach a quick and decisive consensus. There is a great danger that if we do not unite and elect a charismatic statesman for the county, then Yorkshire will not be at the forefront of the Northern Powerhouse.
Without an elected mayor and advocate on the national stage, Yorkshire could find itself out in the cold and yet again made to feel like the ugly sister of Manchester.
With an elected mayor for the whole county, Yorkshire could place itself on the national scene and become the true centre of the North for business, art and culture.
Yorkshire provides some of the best people in British politics. Men and women of gravitas and flare who would be able to fight on our behalf with the Notting Hill gin club at the heart of Parliament.
An elected mayor for the whole of Yorkshire is far preferable to a metro mayor covering a small area. Yorkshire will stand or fall as a whole.
The coast and dale is just as important as the city centres. We have a great brand. Moors and sea frame a county with bustling and vibrant cities at its heart.
What we need is a Boris Johnson-like figure to raise the awareness of the world to the wonders of Yorkshire. A woman or man to go out and sell the talents and skills of the people who live here and the varied businesses and initiatives we have on offer.
The various metro regions within the county now have to set aside the squabbles and petty concerns and see the big picture. A politician such as Alan Johnson would be an ideal candidate to lead Yorkshire. I am not a fan of New Labour, but Johnson has got the “Boris appeal”. He is a man of the people, straight talking and from humble roots and somewhere in his ancestry must have Yorkshire blood.
Articulate, confident and approachable, he is just the person the county needs to represent it on the national and international scene.
Yorkshire deserves its own mayor with a say over budgets for transport and police. We could get rid of all the petty police commissioners and their pocket police forces and have a united police service.
An elected mayor would be able to instigate a dual carriageway from York to Scarborough, a new airport to replace Leeds Bradford and improved roads throughout the county.
They would become the figurehead for a proud people, a spokesperson for an often-lost Northern voice. At last we could then become the true Northern powerhouse with properly devolved powers. An elected mayor could speak out for the county and utter those famous words: “Yorkshire – like Lancashire but better...”
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.