THERE are more than two million reasons why the Tour de Yorkshire is now here to stay.
This is the conservative estimate of the number of people who supported a race that is already established, after just two renewals, as one of the biggest in the sport’s calendar. Indeed, the vast crowds lining Sutton Bank yesterday – or Cote de Sutton Bank in cycling parlance – exceeded those that venture out to witness the Tour de France’s most iconic Alpine stages.
With spectator numbers comfortably exceeding the 1.5 million people who watched last year’s inaugural race, it vindicates the view of Sir Gary Verity, the indomitable head of Welcome to Yorkshire, that this region can become the new spiritual home of cycling because of the sport’s appeal across the whole county.
Unlike local politics where co-operation between councils often leaves much to be desired, this race shows what it is possible when organisations do pull in the same direction. It was also striking how communities along the Tour de Yorkshire route took the race to the hearts and bedecked their streets with bikes, flags and bunting to show their support.
Of course there were disappointments. Sir Bradley Wiggins dropping out on day one, the lack of live TV coverage on Saturday after the aeroplane providing aerial pictures suffered technical gremlins and Lizzie Armitstead failing to win the women’s race from her home town of Otley to Doncaster were not in the script.
Yet the calculated decision to stage the most lucrative women’s race in history clearly paid off with Otley witnessing a sporting day to eclipse the demise of the New Zealand All Blacks in the town in 1979. Now the challenge is building on this so female riders can race over two stages next year. Logistics mean this is only possible if the Tour de Yorkshire is extended to a fourth day. If anyone can make this happen, it is Sir Gary Verity.
Labour’s implosion: Party plummets to new depths
AS Labour’s difficulties deepen over anti-Semitism, and the deeply repugnant comments made by the likes of Bradford MP Naz Shah and then Ken Livingstone, three points are pertinent.
The first is that Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to stand up to prominent members of his party who gratuitously insult the Jewish community sends out a subliminal message that such views are acceptable. They’re not and this simmering row detracts from the urgent need for a wider debate on what more can, and should, be done to combat race hatred in all forms.
The second is that the party is split between the London Labour Party, run by a metropolitan clique close to Mr Corbyn and which appears to favour this type of unsavoury debate, and the Non-London Labour Party led by MPs and former Ministers from Yorkshire and the North who are in total despair.
The third is that Labour should be exploiting the Government’s policy own goals over junior doctors, school academies and disability cuts. Now there is every likelihood that this Thursday’s local elections will be the worst performance by the main Opposition party since 1982, the year of the Falklands conflict.
Yet, perversely, those who want Mr Corbyn to resign do need to be careful what they wish for. The dynamics of the party’s membership means that there’s a strong likelihood that he would simply be replaced by another divisive left-leaning individual, either John McDonnell or Diane Abbott. Is that really in the best interests of Labour and wider politics when the Opposition’s primary duty is to hold Ministers to account? That Labour is now too weak to be decisive when Mr Livingstone has to evoke Hitler to justify his offensive views shows the new depths to which the party has plummeted since Ed Miliband resigned one year ago.
Lessons in rural life: School academy plan is unsustainable
NO good rural school will close when they are converted to academies free from LEA control, says Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. How? She appears to be of the view that teachers in countryside communities will be able to work, and support, several schools because they will operate in ‘clusters’.
Ms Morgan is clearly under the misapprehension that such schools have the same surfeit of staff that exists at her Whitehall ministry. They do not. Heads spend much of their day in the classroom because they have no choice. If they didn’t, class sizes would breach the Government’s own targets.
Before going any further, Ms Morgan should spend a week in a rural Yorkshire school. If she took the trouble to do so, she might learn an invaluable lesson.