‘Jake Berry’s dismissive and arrogant stance is insult to the North’

MP Jake Berry
MP Jake Berry
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THERESA May wants the whole country to embrace the ‘British dream’; Business Secretary Greg Clark is committed to ending the ‘Whitehall knows best’ mentality and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wants power ‘in the hands of the governed’.

Given this, perhaps all three could explain how Jake Berry is not only Northern Powerhouse Minister but still in the job after his insulting, arrogant and contemptuous performance at the Despatch Box during Tuesday’s devolution debate.

He’s clearly not on the same wavelength as his superiors, even though just a handful of this region’s 56 MPs were present to witness these key exchanges with even fewer, worryingly, expected to attend Tuesday’s Yorkshire-specific event at the House of Commons which is being hosted by the CBI. Where are they?

The Yorkshire Post says: Jake Berry’s position threatens to leave Yorkshire with worst of both worlds

This is an opportunity, after 17 out of 20 councils signalled their support for a One Yorkshire devolution deal that would enable England’s largest county to start shaping its future growth, for Mr Berry – aided and abetted by his 16 Conservative colleagues from these parts – to show that the Tories are still the party of ambition in these turbulent times.

Not a bit of it. Instead he’s pressing ahead with a metro-mayor election in the Sheffield City Region, even though Doncaster and Barnsley Councils want no part of it because their leaders can see the bigger picture, and he declined to even consider the One Yorkshire concept that has been gathering momentum.

What is devolution, how will it help us... and why has it taken so long for Yorkshire to reach a deal?

If he’d said the South Yorkshire plan had to go ahead, and that West, North and East Riding should elect an interim mayor with a view to a Yorkshire-wide leadership structure being up and running by 2022, I would have acknowledged Mr Berry’s political dexterity and skill.

Yet, instead, he decided to take a swipe at Labour’s South Yorkshire councils and claimed their factionalism – Sheffield and Rotherham have not backed One Yorkshire – was being “egged on by local MPs”.

When challenged by Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis, one of the most respected and consensual men in politics, to moderate his tone, Mr Berry appeared to lose his cool and then did not have the gravitas, humility or common sense to accept further interventions from his nemesis. His only justification for a mayor who will have few powers, and even less support in South Yorkshire, is that the Tories are getting on with selecting a candidate.

Adjournment Debates are not supposed to be like that. They’re supposed to be consensual. And, as Cabinet Ministers say, devolution should not be about party politics – it’s about making sure regions, big and small, maximise their growth potential, opportunities for all and contribution to Great Britain plc.

LIST IN FULL: So which MPs DID attend and speak for Yorkshire at the devolution debate?

That Jake Berry did not recognise this, and then sidled up to Mr Jarvis afterwards and arranged a follow-up meeting that was postponed within 24 hours, shows why his current approach is doing the Government no favours when One Yorkshire has the potential to be the engine that drives the Northern Powerhouse forward.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn recognised this with her invigorating speech in Leeds on Thursday night.

If the Prime Minister can’t get rid of Mr Berry before he does further damage to Yorkshire, the North and the Government, the future for this county – and country – is bleaker than I thought.

ON reports from his supporters that he would refuse to be demoted as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said: “Whoever they are they do not speak for me.”

Fair enough, but Mr Johnson needs to be aware that his acolytes harbour hopes of him becoming premier sooner rather than later, with the aforementioned Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry – who goes by the nickname ‘Chuck’ in certain WhatsApp exchanges – being talked about as Cabinet material.

Even though a Johnson premiership appears unlikely, not least because Mr Berry led last year’s doomed campaign, perhaps the blustering Brexiteer-in-chief could say that there will be no advancement, in such a scenario, for any of his supporters caught undermining Theresa May.

TALKING of Brexit, it again fell to the Scottish Nationalists – and not Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – to bring the issue up at PMQs. I assume it’s because Mr Corbyn, like Theresa May, cannot answer the question of the week – how would you vote if there was a second referendum on the EU?

I CAN’T wait to read distinguished racing correspondent Brough Scott’s brilliantly produced new book, Churchill at the Gallop, which chronicles the former prime minister’s lifetime with horses – and what they meant to him.

I see the great man suspended a Cabinet meeting on the stroke of 
noon in 1954 so he could attend 
Epsom and witness a young Lester Piggott win the Derby for the first 
time, on the appropriately named 
Never Say Die.

Imagine the outcry if Theresa May tried to do likewise.

IT DOESN’T bode well for the future of the written word when the bigger supermarkets no longer stock plain writing paper for correspondence 
in the stationery section – and that the local WH Smith franchise says there’s 
no demand either, never mind for Basildon Bond.

AS Sir Bobby Charlton, a genius on the football pitch and a gentleman off it, celebrated his 80th birthday, how sad, I thought, that his goalscoring records for Manchester United and England have now been eclipsed by a player as unsavoury in character as Wayne Rooney.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk