THIS cannot have been the referendum that David Cameron envisaged four months ago when he returned from Brussels and urged the British people to endorse the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union following his re-negotiation.
“The choice is in your hands... my recommendation is clear. I believe that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off in a reformed European Union,” said the Tory leader before setting out the process that culminates with today’s historic vote.
Even though this poll is arguably the most important for a generation, this campaign has not revolved around the merit of the concessions that Mr Cameron won from his European counterparts.
Quite the opposite. Simmering Tory disagreement over the EU has boiled over and dominated a process which will be remembered by many for the Remain side’s ‘Project Fear’ tactics on the economy and Leave supporters deploying their own ‘Project Fear’ over migration.
There have been no winners – at times it has felt like a personality contest – and the most redeeming feature has, in many respects, been the forbearance of the electorate. Voters have engaged with the issues – whether it be the economy, immigration and sovereignty – maturely and the anticipated high turnout looks set to buck the trend of recent general elections.
Throughout, The Yorkshire Post has maintained a position of impartiality, and continues to do so, by giving equal prominence to both sides of the debate in the knowledge that readers will exercise their right to vote according to their own interests and instincts. Irrespective of the result, one which will have profound repercussions for Yorkshire, Britain and Europe, both the Government, and the country’s political elite, need to respect the verdict and then kickstart the economic and social reforms that have been on hold by this all-encompassing referendum. Once the votes are counted, the electorate have a right to expect nothing less.
Remembering Jo: We do have #MoreinCommon
A WEEK after the killing of Jo Cox as the Batley & Spen MP undertook those constituency duties which underpin Parliament’s relationship with the public, the wise words of Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds for the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, will resonate with many.
“I pray that Birstall will be remembered more for the manner of her living than for the manner of her dying,” he said during his poignant House of Lords tribute. Though this view is difficult to comprehend when this small town is still coming to terms with the tragedy, the sentiment mirrors the mother-of-two’s humbling approach to life.
This was self-evident as Birstall, Batley, London and communities around the world united in solidarity on what would – and should – have been the 42nd birthday of Mrs Cox. Family, friends, strangers, they know that society is all the poorer for her untimely passing, as illustrated by the #MoreinCommon campaign.
In an era when public respect for politicians cannot be taken for granted, this indefatigable campaigner represented the best of public service. She approached every challenge, whether it be serving her constituents or her acclaimed work assisting Syrian refugees, from a perspective of love. Above all else, she was a conciliator who sought to work with others to advance the causes close to her heart. And, in time, this is probably how the family of Jo Cox will like to remember a daughter, sister and mother who was the embodiment of their own values. As Bishop Nick added, death, violence and destruction cannot, should not and will not be the final word on someone who enriched so many people.
Herriot’s country: Train tribute to TV vet
IN the centenary of his birth, what would the North Yorkshire veterinary surgeon Alf Wight – the author behind the TV vet James Herriot and All Creatures Great and Small series – make of a train being re-dedicated in his honour and commemorative events at King’s Cross station to promote both his work and his legacy?
A modest man, he would – in all probability – be embarrassed by the attention, flattered that Thirsk and the surrounding area was now on the tourism map and very sad that there are now just two dairy farms in the market town’s vicinity, when there were literally dozens in his heyday.
How times change. For, while Herriot Country has moved on, its very fabric – farming – faces challenges which would sadden Mr Wight because such little attention is paid to agriculture each day.