TODAY The Yorkshire Post issues a direct challenge to the leaders of Britain’s four largest political parties: Tell us what you’re going to do for Yorkshire.
Our 10 questions come as Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon take part in a Question Time leaders’ special in Sheffield.
And while the respective Q&As, hosted by Fiona Bruce, will inevitably be dominated by Brexit, the NHS, trust and the future of the whole United Kingdom, this is also a chance for the leaders – while here – to spell out what they intend to do for this county’s 5.3 million residents.
All too familiar with this election’s soundbites and slogans, readers want specifics on the day-to-day issues that matter to them – especially if the December 12 election results in a hung parliament and leads to a coalition being formed.
Such a scenario could see the Liberal Democrats, and also the Scottish National Party, acting as power-brokers, hence our call to all parties to set out their plans to turn Yorkshire into a national and international powerhouse.
Our questions are not exhaustive – they’re a snapshot of the issues highlighted by readers – but they’re fundamental to this region’s future. They are:
1 What is your number one plan to incentivise global companies to be based in Yorkshire and how do you intend to breathe new life into our struggling high streets?
2 Please reiterate your commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail to transform transport links, set out a timetable for its implementation and pledge to prioritise the Yorkshire link of HS2.
3 As well as transport, will you commit your party to working with leaders here to deliver a devolution package for the whole of Yorkshire and guarantee fair funding to this region to narrow the North-South divide?
4 Given skills is integral to the devolution and economy agendas, how do you intend to raise standards at the county’s schools and address longstanding shortfalls in funding?
5 Social care is another key service dogged by inertia and inaction – when do you intend to implement detailed reforms and do you propose a cap on the maximum contribution that individuals, or families, should make towards costs?
6 As part of your public service commitments, how many affordable homes would you build in Yorkshire over the next decade, how would you fund them and what proportion of these properties would be located in rural areas?
7 This is being described by some as the climate change election – where do you stand on fracking and how do you intend to guarantee that the future energy needs of Yorkshire, and the rest of the UK, are met?
8 As you address Question Time, hundreds of flood-hit families just over 20 miles away in the lower Don Valley face months in temporary accommodation while their homes are repaired. What is your message to them and how do you intend to protect Yorkshire homes and businesses from future flooding?
9 Farmers here – the original Northern Powerhouse – want guarantees about future subsidies so they can plan for the future. What is your pledge to them and how you can you reassure them that you will take countryside issues more seriously?
10 Finally how do you – and your party – plan to reunite the country in the wake of the deep divisions that are a direct legacy of Brexit and its wider ramifications?
We look forward to the responses – and the four leaders taking part in a positive, and constructive, debate rather than the negativity that has characterised this campaign to date.
We will commit to publishing the answers – and hope that the leaders use this opportunity to convince Yorkshire families and businesses that they’re on their side.
To use cricketing parlance, a strong Yorkshire equates to a strong England – the challenge now is applying this mantra to economic and social policy so this region’s ambitions and potential can be maximised in the next Parliament for the wider benefit of Great Britain.