2021 Year in Review: Yorkshire CCC in crisis over Azeem Rafiq racism scandal

A racism crisis hits Yorkshire CCC, the region's tourism agency boss departs and the Integrated Rail Plan disappoints the county. Chris Burn looks back at the political events that shaped September to December.

An emotional Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to MPs about racism at Yorkshire CCC.
An emotional Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to MPs about racism at Yorkshire CCC.

SEPTEMBER

Panic buying led to petrol shortages around the country, following reports about a lack of HGV drivers leading to delivery problems.

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It led to a spike in demand for fuel, which saw many forecourts run dry.

There was widespread disappointment in Yorkshire at the Government's Integrated Rail Plan.

Military drivers were called in to help deliver fuel to forecourts, while temporary visas were offered for foreign drivers to work in the UK.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson conducted a Cabinet reshuffle which saw Yorkshire-born Education Secretary Gavin Williamson sacked and Michael Gove given the key job of delivering on the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Mr Gove was initially appointed as Housing Secretary but his department’s name was subsequently changed to include Levelling Up in its – and his – title.

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It was announced Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason would be leaving the troubled tourism agency in October after less than two years in charge.

Mr Mason, who was appointed in January 2020 to try and rebuild the organisation’s reputation after problems linked to the reign of former CEO Sir Gary Verity, said he was leaving with his “head held high” to go to an unspecified new job in the New Year.

But his resignation came in the wake of an investigation into a complaint about him and four board members subsequently resigned in an apparent protest at his departure.

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Met Police officer Wayne Couzens was given a whole life sentence for the murder of York’s Sarah Everard after he kidnapped her under the guise of an arrest.

Ms Everard, who lived in London, had been walking home from a friend’s house on March 3 when she was abducted. Sarah’s family said of the sentence that while “nothing can bring Sarah back… knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief”.

OCTOBER

North Yorkshire police, fire and crime commissioner Philip Allott resigned from his post after causing a national furore for urging women to be “streetwise” about when they can and can’t be arrested in response to Sarah Everard’s murder.

Mr Allott had initially refused to resign but after his own staff signed a letter calling for him to quit and a Police and Crime Panel made up of local councillors passed a unanimous vote of no confidence, he finally decided to stand down from the £74,000-a-year job.

The Conservative politician has now been replaced by fellow Tory Zoe Metcalfe in the role after a by-election.

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Long-standing MP Sir David Amess was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery on October 15.

There was an outpouring of grief for the Southend West MP, who had been in Parliament since 1983 and had four daughters and a son.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was charged with murder and preparing acts of terrorism.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak used a faster-than-expected economic recovery from the pandemic to set a course for almost £23bn a year of extra public spending as planned cuts to Government departments were cancelled and more money provided to schools, transport and the courts system in

his Budget and Spending Review.

Mr Sunak confirmed £5.7bn of funding for green transport schemes including £1.4bn in West and South Yorkshire.

NOVEMBER

Former Yorkshire County Cricket Club player Azeem Rafiq appeared before MPs to share his emotional and explosive experience of racism in

cricket.

An investigation ordered by the club into his allegations had previously resulted in them accepting he had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying but failed to make a finding on his central claim that it was institutionally racist.

The crisis led to the departures of chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur, with sponsors including Nike going on to cut ties with Yorkshire CCC.

New chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel went on to remove 16 members of staff, including head coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon, while he has ordered a new investigation into discrimination at the club.

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The crucial COP26 summit on tackling climate change literally ended in tears in Glasgow as an emotional Alok Sharma struggled to hold back his emotions.

The COP26 president apologised for the way a late amendment to the Glasgow Climate Pact watering down a commitment to phase out coal was made following an intervention by India and China.

Mr Sharma subsequently insisted the summit had been a success.

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Boris Johnson’s Government became embroiled in a lobbying row which ultimately saw North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson resign after a botched attempt to overhaul a Parliamentary standards watchdog.

The Conservative MP was found to have broken lobbying rules and was facing a suspension but it was blocked by colleagues calling for an overhaul of the MPs’ standards watchdog instead.

A furious backlash led to a swift Government U-turn – which was then followed by Mr Paterson quitting on the grounds he wanted a life “outside the cruel world of politics”.

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There was huge disappointment in Yorkshire at the publication of the Government’s long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan.

The plan saw the HS2 Eastern Leg route to Leeds cancelled in favour of stopping it in the East Midlands instead, while hopes of an entirely new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford were also dashed.

Instead, a new line will run between Warrington and Marsden on the edge of Yorkshire – meaning the county will get just two miles of new high-speed line under the Government’s current plans.

DECEMBER

The emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of coronavirus led to the return of mandatory face masks in shops and on public transport, while Boris Johnson ordered an accelerated vaccine programme which he labelled ‘Get Boosted Now’.

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Allegations of repeated lockdown rule-breaking during 2020 plagued Downing Street.

Leaked footage from No 10’s £2.6 million press briefing room showed former press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing as she appeared to rehearse answers to questions over a lockdown-busting Christmas party.

Ms Stratton resigned while Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was tasked with an inquiry – which he then had to step down from as it emerged his own office had also held their own events.

A picture than emerged of Mr Johnson and his then-fiance Carrie with almost 20 staff enjoying wine and cheese in the Downing Street garden during the strict initial lockdown.

The Lib Dems won a shock by-election victory in Owen Paterson’s former seat.

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