Proper devolution - not independence - is right for Yorkshire and the North, says party leader

Two parties fighting to be the voice of the North are concerned with the same issues, but have very different ideals, the leader of the Yorkshire Party has said.

Speaking on The Yorkshire Post’s political podcast Dr Bob Buxton, the leader of The Yorkshire Party, said their seven years of experience dwarfed the new Northern Independence Party (NIP) set up prior to next month’s Hartlepool by-election.

Dr Buxton said: “They’re talking about the same sorts of problems with the unfairness with representation and with spending. But of course, we’re a moderate party, a centre ground party, they’re a socialist party, and of course, their solution is extreme.

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“Their solution is independence for the North, which would wreck the economy, you’d create far more problems than you’d solve with that.”

Leader of the Yorkshire Party Bob Buxton. Photo: JPI Media

The NIP manifesto, launched this week, says “through independence, we have the opportunity to decentralise our society and create regional equality, while maintaining our proud, unique, and distinctive local identities”.

But Dr Buxton said this was “ridiculous” and instead: “We want powerful devolution, like every other region in democracies around the world.”

And he said there was a danger of new, niche parties going too big, too fast.

Pointing to Change UK, the centrist, pro-European Union political party set up in February 2019 by defecting Tory and Labour MPs, he said they moved too quickly.

“They started off with 11 MPs, they got more publicity in the first day that we’ve probably ever had, got donations, the odd councillors defected to them.

“And 10 months later, they didn’t exist. So if you get things wrong, you can go from really high status, one of the biggest parties in the country in terms of MPs, to absolutely nothing.”

He said the key for the NIP would be whether they got themselves organised.

He said the Yorkshire Party had grown slowly, and went from nothing to having councillors across Yorkshire and gaining 50,000 votes in the European elections.

“The main thing I’ve got to go by is that they didn’t manage to register their party,” he said.

“So they don’t appear to be terribly well organised. That might change, we don’t know, but that’s it. They’ve gone to the sensationalist approach, which tends to get short-term publicity, but it doesn’t get sustainable growth.”

However Thelma Walker, who is standing as an independent in the Hartlepool by-election but with the NIPs support, previously said it was about building a movement.

She said: “We’ve now got members across the country who are joining up, many of whom are actually Northerners, who have ended up moving away from their home, to get employment to get those higher skilled jobs, because there often isn’t that opportunity in the place where they were born.”

She added: “I’m feeling now that in this campaign, that that vision and joy and enthusiasm for something you really believe in, really powers our movement and powers, these volunteers who are steering the campaign.

“And it’s a grassroots movement, where it is progressive policies, which are discussed and decided upon, and it’s truly democratic.”