Jon Trickett: Give Yorkshire a voice to lead Britain to greatness

I WOULDN'T want to have been born anywhere else but in Yorkshire. My grandfather was a proud Yorkshireman.
Can the white rose county unite over devolution?Can the white rose county unite over devolution?
Can the white rose county unite over devolution?

Whenever he met a Lancastrian, he would say there were more acres of land in Yorkshire than there are grains of sand on Blackpool beach.

An exaggeration maybe?  I don’t know.

He also said that when Yorkshire are playing well at cricket, then so are our national team. And that certainly is true.

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I’m as proud of Yorkshire as he was. That pride took me, a boy from an ordinary background in Leeds, first to the council chamber – then as leader of a great Yorkshire city and then to Parliament as MP for Hemsworth.

And I say that it’s not just true of cricket.  When Yorkshire’s economy is held back as it is now, then so is the country’s.

And it’s a situation that together we can and we must change.

Britain is leaving the European Union. Is this a moment of real change? It could be.

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First I worry that some Yorkshire jobs may be at risk. Equally I worry that the Government will simply repatriate the powers from Brussels to the same old British Establishment located in not much more than a couple of square miles in the centre of London.

Yorkshire voted by 58 to 42 per cent for Brexit. In part because people wanted more control. But we were motivated by something deeper too. A belief in the people of Yorkshire. A belief that we could give ourselves a better future.

And even though many were concerned about threats to jobs and business, that message of taking back control resonated. Why?

Because it is not acceptable that power and wealth in Britain remain concentrated in so few hands.

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It is not acceptable to the Yorkshire businessman I met who – in the heart of the once great Yorkshire coalfield – was helping to redesign the New York stock exchange.  Imagine that!

But he had to put his computer in the back of his car boot every single night and take it home because the broadband connection to his industrial estate was so poor that he couldn’t communicate effectively with New York.

An entrepreneur whose business is limited not because he lacks determination, creative skills or business acumen but because the broadband connection here in Yorkshire is inadequate.

And it’s not acceptable to the young Yorkshire woman – a cancer survivor – I met who can’t build a career that she wants because the Government has cut the education package she needs.

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A life limited at 28 not by cancer nor by lack of ambition but by lack of educational investment here in the North of England.

Some will call these stories of Yorkshire hardship but I call them the stories of Yorkshire heroes.  People are hungry for political change. So what should we do? 

First of all, we must build on initiatives started by our local councils. And on the innovative work of combined authorities in West and South Yorkshire particularly when it comes to transport and economic development. Their work has led to unprecedented levels of co-operation between individual councils.

I acknowledge too the importance of the increasing dialogue between council leaders and trade unions which is absolutely essential for any devolution agreement.

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Beyond that, I believe in a single elected voice for Yorkshire. Not one which interferes with the excellent work which I’ve just referred to, but one which can speak for the county as a whole.

I believe in One Yorkshire. This week a proposal has emerged for a Mayor of Yorkshire and the Humber with a cabinet made up of representatives from councils in West, South and North Yorkshire and from the Humber.

At the end of the day, it’s not up to me alone to determine the precise configuration of how this might be put together. I will press my case but others may have a different view. Let there be a debate, but not a long one.

To get a solution by necessity, we will have to achieve consensus both within political parties in Yorkshire and the Humber and between them. Though one thing we cannot consider is inaction.

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The solution must be it rooted in Yorkshire soil, breathe Yorkshire air and speak with a Yorkshire accent.

Look. There is a danger that different parts of the North are left fighting amongst ourselves, with mayor competing against mayor and council against council. 

But let us equally resolve that after developing our new structures for our county, we will then build a mighty Council of the North bringing elected mayors, councils and MPs together for the whole region to plan a better future for each one of us.

The North of England is a slumbering giant. Roused from our torpor we are capable of delivering a new and better economy which works for every single region and a more socially just Britain.

Jon Trickett is the Labour MP for Hemsworth and a Shadow Cabinet minister. This is the edited version of a policy speech that he’s delivering to the TUC today.