THE fact that David Cameron is struggling to reap the rewards for the creation of 110,000 new private sector jobs in Yorkshire since the coalition came to power is indicative of the prevailing political climate.
The Prime Minister is having to play the economic long game – his recurring message is that “the struggle of the past few years will only be worth it if we finish the job we started” – at a time when the coalition is being buffeted by short-term political issues allied to the cost of living.
It was why the Tory leader was in his “roll up the sleeves” mode when he toured Yorkshire yesterday for his first day-long regional visit since his aspirational party conference speech – and a growing debate about the plausibility of Ed Miliband’s proposed energy price freeze.
Just as in May 2010, when Shipley was the location for his first policy speech outside London since becoming PM, Mr Cameron is acutely aware of this region’s electoral significance – his chances of securing outright victory in 2015 depend on the outcome in a clutch of marginals locally.
As then, his challenge is using the narrative from his “land of opportunity for all” conference speech two weeks ago to forge a new spirit of optimism – and allay concerns about a stubbornly-wide North-South divide – when the spending squeeze and austerity agenda will have to remain in place until at least 2020.
It is why EU policy and energy prices have acquired even more importance; they are two issues that will shape the next election campaign. But what was striking was the PM’s realisation that the Government’s skills agenda, critical to Britain and Yorkshire’s future prospects, will not fulfil its potential unless all children can read and write after 11 years in school.
The challenge is having the time to put in place these building blocks for the future when the public are increasingly seeking short-term answers to long-term issues. Given this, Mr Cameron’s focus needs to be on the successful implementation of his existing reforms. If he can prove that has achieved more than Labour on far less money, he will have proved many doubters wrong. However that still requires a recognition that many of Yorkshire’s economic challenges – particularly those pertaining to infrastructure – are different to those confronting the City of London.
THE immediate contradiction at the centre of the Government’s plan to block illegal immigrants from opening bank accounts in Britain suggests that this is another gimmick drawn up by an increasingly authoritarian Home Office to appease public opinion.
If Ministers had a sufficient grip on policy, and on the need to protect Britain’s borders, in the first place, there would be no need for this bank ban. The fact that this rule is now being applied to those people living in this country under false pretences is likely to make it even harder for the authorities to trace – and deport – them.
The same applies to other aspects of the Immigration Bill. Full of rhetoric and emotive language designed to appeal to voters 18 months ahead of a general election, it places, for example, an onus on landlords to check the residency status of prospective tenants.
This theme continues with illegal immigrants being banned from access to public services like the NHS.
The public will agree with this sentiment, but can a doctor be expected to refuse to treat a seriously-ill person because their application has been mishandled by the UK Border Agency?
The Government’s response needs to be two-fold – making sure there are more robust checks on people entering the UK and a deportation policy that is more effective than the Home Office van stunt which saw illegal immigrants rounded up and removed from the country.
Within weeks, some were back on the streets of Britain.
IT is little wonder that neighbours of Robert Masuku said “good riddance” when the rap fan moved away from York – he’s subjected them to eight hours of foul-mouthed lyrics that were played at such a deafening volume that no-one could sleep in the immediate vicinity.
Their relief will be tempered by the fact that the inconsiderate 37-year-old did not turn up to court where he was fined in his absence. It remains to be seen whether justice will catch up with Masuku.
Three issues, nevertheless, stem from this case. First, residents were subjected to 11 months of hell before City of York Council acted. This is not good enough. Second, people are invariably frightened to confront neighbours who play music at an unacceptably loud level – that is why local authorities must retain sufficient environmental health staff. And, finally, is it not possible for households to be more considerate to others?
While such a plea is likely to fall on deaf ears in Masuku’s case, there does appear to be an increasing preponderance of cases where people feel the need to play music at full blast. That is why headphones were invented – to lessen such noise intrusion on those who enjoy more serene lifestyles.