IF MICHAEL Heseltine was still in the Cabinet, Yorkshire would probably have devolution by now. Why? He would not have allowed narrow-minded council leaders or Ministers to put self-interest before the greater good.
This much was self-evident when Lord Heseltine addressed a major conference in Leeds on the Northern Powerhouse as council leaders from the region travelled to London to meet Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and make the case for One Yorkshire.
Time will tell if this region’s leaders have done enough to win the confidence of Mr Javid, who has been circumspect throughout this process, but he – and others – would be well advised to heed Lord Heseltine’s rallying call.
Bemoaning the slow progress on this side of the Pennines compared to the North-West, he was scornful of the “tribal instincts” of certain stakeholders who have yet to embrace the One Yorkshire agenda and believes that this lack of unanimity won’t help the rest of the region win the trust of Ministers.
Yet what makes this intervention so timely is the Tory grandee’s track record. He was the one person in Margaret Thatcher’s first term who recognised the untapped potential of the North’s neglected cities after the Toxteth riots in Liverpool in the early 1980s.
He was the one politician prepared to set up development corporations to provide the necessary leadership to regenerate deprived areas and then begin to advocate the transfer of decision-making powers from Whitehall to the English regions.
And he’s one of the few statesmen genuinely respected by Tory and Labour politicians for his pioneering work which was, in fact, the precursor to the Northern Powerhouse. Now, more than ever, his input will be invaluable to getting One Yorkshire over the line so this region can forge a new industrial revolution set in the digital age.