What Yorkshire’s army of undecided voters want from politicians - some real help for region: Andrew Vine

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are being challenged to set out their visions for Yorkshire. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are being challenged to set out their visions for Yorkshire. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
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I DON’T know many people who have finally made up their minds who to vote for yet, but I do know lots of them who are asking themselves the same question as me. What will a new Government do for us here in Yorkshire?

The answers are among the factors I’ll have in mind when entering the polling booth on December 12 and many other people who are not fervently committed to any particular party will be thinking the same way.

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That’s because for Yorkshire, this election isn’t solely about Brexit despite the issue’s dominance of the political landscape.

It’s about much more than that. It’s about getting a fair deal for our county, about reversing decades of historical neglect and tackling a raft of serious issues that don’t make many waves at Westminster but threaten the welfare and future of places that we cherish.

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Transport, the ability to run our own affairs and the Northern Powerhouse are at the top of the list, but the plight of coastal towns and rural communities need to be right up there too.

And only specific, detailed policies and pledges to tackle them will win my vote.

So far, and so predictably, all the parties are dealing in generalities. The traditional tussle over the NHS, Tory pledges on beefing up the police and Labour on making the rich pay a fairer share of tax are all familiar.

This sort of stuff isn’t enough by itself for our part of the world. Of course we all want the NHS here to be the best it can be and for our police forces to have the resources they need to tackle crime.

But there needs to be more, starting with a proper acknowledgement that Yorkshire needs special consideration in the business of government, thanks both to its sheer scale and the difficulties it faces.

This was underlined by last week’s figures from the Office of National Statistics on gross domestic product in the last quarter. We have the unenviable distinction of being tied with the East Midlands as the worst-performing English region.

Yorkshire should not be in this position, and the blame lies with the long-term lack of investment by successive governments. For any of the main parties to command the confidence of voters here, they need to look Yorkshire people in the eye and tell them: “We know it hasn’t been good enough, and this is what we’re going to do about it.”

What makes it imperative for them to do so is that solutions to the problems are obvious, and set out in the Power Up the North programme. A commitment to making devolution happen should be a given for any incoming administration. It is nonsensical that a region the size of ours should not have the powers to run its own affairs and make decisions in the best interests of residents based on a profound understanding of the communities in which they live.

So too the foot-dragging over the Northern Powerhouse needs to end and a realistic level of funding given to the great cities of Yorkshire and beyond so that they can flex their economic muscle.

Hand-in-hand with that goes a commitment to investment in transport, both road and rail, in order to get the region moving as it should and stop the slow strangulation of enterprise and the daily frustration of people trying to get to work.

And if Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson want to demonstrate a real understanding of this county and the concerns of its people, they must go further.

Coast and countryside both need help and comprehensive plans to safeguard their future, not to be treated as afterthoughts in policy-making as they are currently.

Our seaside towns are crying out for investment. Summer visitors and the economic bounce they bring mask a story of deprivation and lack of opportunities which has received woefully inadequate attention from government over the course of decades, and still less action.

The same applies to rural communities, which are being left to fend for themselves in the face of a corrosive mix of social factors which threaten to hollow out market towns and villages.

Where are the policies to provide more affordable homes to stop the loss of young people to cities, or incentives to businesses such as decent broadband to enable them to get established and provide jobs? Or the recognition that thinly-spread public services that would be regarded as inadequate in cities are somehow good enough for the countryside?

Yorkshire people need answers to all these pressing issues, not just warm words. We’ve had a bellyful of those for donkey’s years without the money to back them up and that won’t wash any more.

So come on, Messrs Johnson and Corbyn, and Ms Swinson. Let’s have less of the generalities and more specifics about why you deserve the votes of this region, whether in town, coast or country.