UNLIKE 2005 when Michael Howard stated – erroneously – that the Tories did not need to win the North in order to be returned to the power, today’s Conservative Party does, at least, acknowledge Yorkshire’s electoral existence. They’re not that complacent.
The problem is the party’s high command is invariably struck down with white rose amnesia immediately after polling day. Remember 2010? Overtures made by David Cameron became worthless when Yorkshire Forward was soon abolished instead of the regional development agency’s profligacy curtailed and a clearer remit agreed.
And 2015? I lost count of the number of occasions that Mr Cameron – and George Osborne for that matter – visited these parts to promise faster rail links between Leeds and Manchester before their plans had to be put on hold because of Network Rail’s management and financial crises at the time.
I’ve no doubt that the 2017 poll will follow a similiar pattern. Despite her visit to the region this week, Theresa May will make similar overtures about the so-called Northern Powerhouse that will be quickly forgotten when she’s safely returned to 10 Downing Street.
However this is why I’d like to see all candidates not only commit themselves to the Northern Powerhouse, but ensure it is given due political attention in the next Parliament because of its importance to the national economy as Britain prepares for Brexit.
At the very least, the Northern Powerhouse Minister – currently Brigg and Goole’s Andrew Percy – should be compelled to answer questions for 30 minutes once a month in the Commons. At present, he only does so as part of Communities and Local Government questions where the randomness of the issues raised means there’s little focus.
Secondly, there should be a Northern Powerhouse select committee tasked with overseeing the delivery of investment in transport, skills and business infrastructure. Not only will this bring about much needed scrutiny but it might also encourage this region’s newly-elected MPs to work collaboratively and, perhaps, help Yorkshire council leaders here end their devolution deadlock.
AS the Leader of the Commons, David Lidington is – for now – responsible for ensuring that Theresa May’s legislative programme is not sidetracked by Brexit.
“It’s important we get it right,” Mr Lidington told me during a recent visit to The Yorkshire Post when he implied that quality, not quantity, of domestic laws will matter most of all in the coming years.
Hear, hear. There have been too many occasions when governments and prime Ministers have legislated in haste to create the impression that they’re on top of the job.
It’s a lesson that Ministers appear to have taken on board – the response to last month’s terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament was noteworthy by the absence of politicians, or police chiefs for that matter, pleading for the relevant laws to be tightened still further.
Mr Lidington says he almost jumped in the air when Theresa May told her inaugural Cabinet that her preferred method of policy-making would be the publication of so-called Green Papers – consultative documents – before White Papers formalise proposals.
However this does require Ministers having the humility to listen to genuine concerns and recognising that any volte-faces will be portrayed by the national media, and the BBC’s chief critic Laura Kuenssberg in particular, as u-turns.
Indeed, last month’s Budget shambles over National Insurance and the self-employed does not inspire confidence in the ability of Ministers to honour the ‘get it right’ mantra.
Yet, in giving the Government the benefit of the doubt on this occasion, Ministers should go further when setting out policy plans in future. Not only should they be fully costed at the outset – but precise details given on how they will be funded, the impact on the relevant budgets and the wider ramifications, good or bad, for the nation’s finances. What better time to start than now?
GREAT to see some passion from Education Secretary Justine Greening when she decried those who are happy to “make do”. Growing up in Rotherham, she says she “hated” the phrase and added: “I heard it, but I didn’t want to just make do. I wanted more than that.”
Even more welcome was that the comprehensive-educated politician was speaking about ‘just about managing’ families – the silent majority who are not singled out by politicians because they’re not too wealthy or too poor. Let’s hope there’s more language like this during the election.
COMPARE and contrast...
While Network Rail make the most of bank holidays, including Christmas and Easter, to undertake the maximum amount of maintenance work and infrastructure improvements, Yorkshire Water’s increasingly inconvenient sewer repairs on Kirkstall Road, one of the main routes in and out of Leeds, come to a halt. I can only assume they have not been given sufficient incentive by Leeds City Council, the highway authority, to get it done PDQ.
THE financial results of Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons might be improving – but a couple of visits to local stores to check out this resurgence for myself provided fruitless (no pun intended) because basics, like skimmed milk and first class stamps, were both out of stock.
When I suggested to a manager that Sir Ken Morrison would be turning in his grave, there was no awareness of this Yorkshire retail giant or the standards he had expected of his staff when alive.
Tens of thousands owe their livelihoods to him. They should not forget.