HOW times change. For years, The Yorkshire Post – and all those demanding Government recognition of the North – have felt ignored, even insulted, by the tokenism of London-centric Ministers.
Not any more. Within days of 33 newspapers, including this publication, launched the Power Up The North campaign last month, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry was supporting calls for his role to be elevated to the Cabinet so the needs of this region’s 15 million residents are taken seriously.
He’s not alone. Jeremy Hunt concurred this week as he steps up his quest to become Tory leader and Prime Minister – both the Foreign Secretary, and his predecessor Boris Johnson, are due in Yorkshire tomorrow for hustings.
And now Environment Secretary Michael Gove – one of the current Cabinet’s biggest hitters – has backed the campaign’s call for “far better” infrastructure and transport links so that talented people don’t have to gravitate towards London to further their careers as Parliament’s Business Committee launches its own inquiry under Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.
Just as significantly, Mr Gove wants Defra – his department – to be given greater financial autonomy from the Treasury in order to maximise the potential, and productivity, of the rural economy, an important sector not fully appreciated by successive governments. It remains to be seen if he gets his way at the end of a leadership campaign where rural issues have barely featured.
And while it is reassuring that so many national politicians concur with the Power Up The North policy agenda – and the proactive stance taken by this region’s newspapers – they will, however, be judged on their ability, when Theresa May’s successor forms a government, to give the Northern Powerhouse the recognition, support and impetus which it has been denied for too long. That is still the defining test.