IT is said that Yorkshire is a place of unexpected surprises. My surprise came in the form of Rita Payne. She has become the new love of my life. Before you ask, Rita isn’t a woman but a two-piece folk and Americana band that came to Woodend Creative Gallery, Scarborough, all the way from Doncaster.
On a wet Saturday this zenith of Yorkshire talent made me laugh, cry and sing along to some of the best foot-stomping music I have ever heard. Rhiannon and Pete who make up the duo are really what Yorkshire is all about; incredible talent making it on their own without any help from outside, but with a lot of grit and determination.
Seeing something so fantastic coming out of Belton village set me thinking what were the most important things the next Prime Minister should do for Yorkshire.
What I do know is Yorkshire deserves better – whoever possesses the keys to Number 10. I can say that even before the new government is elected next week. Regardless of their political colour, the new man in charge will soon forget their friends in the North and return to the London-centric policies. Ten times the amount of money spent on Yorkshire transport infrastructure is spent in South East and that is just one example.
Yorkshire will again be ignored and left to fend for itself as if it were a distant and barren land in Game of Thrones.
The first thing on the list for any new PM should be to reinstate Yorkshire to the county it once was. With nearly as many people living here as in the whole of Scotland, this gracious land should be returned to being divided into Ridings with the ancient boundaries restored.
Give us back East Yorkshire and never let the word Cleveland be heard again other than as a reference to the beautiful hills.
With this should be more defined self-government and devolved power, with a Yorkshire assembly meeting in York. It could then follow that the county has a united police force. The current system is top-heavy with superintendents and chiefs with jobs duplicated across several independent forces. Each of these has a chief constable and now a commissioner. There would be a great saving upon amalgamation. Bobbies could be put back on the beat and the headquarters desk jockeys would find out what it is like to be real police officers again.
A stronger and more defined county would also mean that there could be a bringing together of health authorities, thereby saving money and pooling resources.
What Yorkshire is being offered at the moment is mere crumbs from the table. We should have full responsibility for transport, education, planning on a local and regional level.
Any new Prime Minister should also consider making Yorkshire an area of cultural significance.
David Cameron often harps on about what it is to be English. At least we in Yorkshire know who we are. We have a strong culture of music and dance and are an artistic centre. Some of the best films in the world have been made here. It would be very easy for the next government to make the county a cultural enterprise zone.
Young performers like Rita Payne, Eliza Carthy and Jesse Hutchinson could be sponsored to develop music and the arts throughout the county. Film companies could be given tax breaks to film here and venues, cafes and bars allowed to put on music, film and theatre without the current mountain of red tape. A move such as this would bring more jobs, but more than that, a better quality of life.
The outgoing government promised to raise the employment rate of Yorkshire so that there are over 100,000 more people in work during the next Parliament. They say that they will do this by backing business growth, business investment and business start-ups. What better way of achieving this than through the Arts?
Instead of closing such classic venues as the Scarborough Futurist Theatre, they could be turned into cultural centres. More jobs would be created, more revenue raised and more people would benefit.
Education is also a key issue. Yorkshire has some of the worst results in the country and allegedly some of the worst schools. Any politician in power should make reading and books a priority. Teachers should be allowed to get on and teach and the mammoth task of information gathering they have to do stopped. League tables should be outlawed in Yorkshire and the naming and shaming of schools ended.
Tax breaks could be given to small businesses to encourage them to employ more people. Transport links have to be improved so that the county is accessible from the south and the M1 does not resemble a car park.
However, whatever happens next week will have little real effect on the county and the title of Rita Payne’s new album We’re getting there, aren’t we? will be what thousands of drivers are screaming on a clogged A64.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor. Rita Payne can be enjoyed @TheRitaPayne.