The incoming Johnson administration demonstrated the divide in spades with only one Cabinet minister in England north of Nottinghamshire in Julian Smith of the Skipton and Ripon constituency, and he is Northern Ireland Secretary.
Too often, it is forgotten that Yorkshire has a population slightly larger than Scotland and from agriculture and manufacturing investment, to sport, higher education and tourism, has always made and still makes, a massive contribution to the national economy and to the wellbeing of Britain.
Celebrating Yorkshire, however, is something that we should be doing on a daily basis while respecting and acknowledging that our heart and home will be within the neighbourhood, the village, town or city in which we live.
One area where we lose out is the acknowledgement through the honours system for those who go the extra mile. This applies to those giving their time as volunteers but also to individual men and women committed to public service, to education, science and the arts, and of course to success in business.
Following this year’s birthday honours list, I put down Parliamentary Questions to ascertain precisely how many, and in what category, people were honoured. Some of the results are not unexpected.
Given the London-centric nature of Westminster and Whitehall, and of those evaluating the recommendations from across the country for inclusion in the honours list, it is no wonder that London and southern England generally do pretty well.
In London, 15 were made Knights or Dames and 41 more received a CBE, with a grand total of honours at all levels of 199; 18.55 per cent of all awards with just 12.9 per cent of the total population. A dramatic over-representation only equalled by Northern Ireland.
Yorkshire had one at the highest level, just six at CBE and a grand total of 61. Just 5.68 per cent of the total awards made, but with a population of 8.4 per cent of the country.
You could of course argue that given the proximity to the centre of the UK government, to the socio-economic make up and educational attainment of the London population, they may well have both the confidence and connections to make the nominations.
You may well but actually, that would not account for the outcome. For this is supposed to be on merit. An acknowledgement of outstanding commitment or success, and a way of saying ‘‘thank you’’, as well as encouraging others who celebrate with those they know.
The lack of visibility, reward and celebration of excellence does not stop at the honours list. Regrettably it applies across the board. Most recent moves to evaluate the success or otherwise of investment in higher education places great emphasis on earnings in the immediate post-graduation years.
It does not take a genius to see that those who moved to London will gain the greatest material rewards. Salaries paid by the big consultancies and financial institutions in the City of London pay the most enormous, and in my view, outrageous salaries for the twenty-somethings. I’m talking here at £50,000 plus.
Those who stay within their locality, York, Hull, Sheffield or Huddersfield, by the very nature of the labour market variations, are likely to be in smaller companies or public service and are going to be paid a great deal less. Somewhere between £18,000 and £30,000 in the first five years.
But their contribution not only to the social and cultural well-being of the area, but also to its prosperity and economic growth, is incalculable. We need graduates to stay in Yorkshire.We need them to accept a slow burn in earnings potential in order to sustain our economy and help us to counterbalance the disparity in gross added value, GDP and productivity, which divides the nation in so many ways.
Here’s another thought. How many voices (you’ll appreciate that I’m into voices) do you hear on radio or television, outside regional and local broadcasts, with a Yorkshire accent?
It isn’t in the least bit discriminatory to suggest that you might, as with the honours list, hear quite a number from Northern Ireland, from Scotland, and of course overwhelmingly from London and the South. Yes, and those from second and third generation migration into the UK also show up substantially, particularly from South Asia.
Given that we do have some broadcast production facilities still left in Leeds and documentary facilities, for instance those in Sheffield, coupled with excellent journalism courses in our White Rose universities, what is amiss? It is very simple. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s the old game of ‘‘connections’’.
Nothing to do with Eton or Harrow, but simply those who have a relative or friend, a connection of some description. It mattered less in the past. We had quite powerful regional television outlets, producing material for national audiences.
We had successful local radio stations with a large listenership. Now, we have substantially and overwhelmingly London centric broadcasts, broadcasters, plus online and on demand downloads.
I know there’s a tendency to whinge. So let me make it clear. I don’t think we should feel sorry for ourselves or see ourselves as victims. I think we should start fighting back. We should ‘‘demand’’ change.
We should quite simply make our voices heard in every way! Time in other words, for Yorkshire to punch its weight. This is God’s own county and it’s time we reminded the rest of the UK of that undisputed truth.