Now, on Yorkshire Day, the white rose county needs – more than ever – inspirational political, business and civic leadership to further enhance its status as a Northern, British and International Powerhouse like no other.
Put simply, today’s annual celebration of Yorkshire pride should be the last without a definitive devolution plan in place which unites the region, galvanises the Government and empowers local leaders.
And, while the new One Yorkshire campaign body being launched today reflects the growing support for a Yorkshire-wide mayor who can become a figurehead for the whole area and champion the economic growth agenda, there’s still work to do to convince a Government that is sceptical at best and, at worst, obstructive.
This is why The Yorkshire Post is today challenging James Brokenshire, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, to visit the region – he’s still to do so three months after being appointed – to take personal charge of the negotiations.
After all, Mr Brokenshire’s predecessors told this region to go away and not return until a political consensus had emerged. It has. Eighteen out of 20 councils now back One Yorkshire – the exceptions are Sheffield and Rotherham and their reservations are offset by the support of Sheffield City Region’s mayor Dan Jarvis.
Ministers then wanted to see the support of businesses, but they have been amongst the loudest voices calling for progress. It’s why some of the most significant participants at today’s launch, being hosted by the Archbishop of York, include the local leaders of the Institute of Directors, CBI and TUC who have come together in a show of unity because they know this issue is integral to the area’s future prosperity.
And, if this is still not good enough for Mr Brokenshire and reluctant reformers like Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, One Yorkshire will now coalesce support amongst the most important people of all – the individuals who live and work here in God’s Own County. In votes last year, and in Sheffield City Region’s mayoral contest, they backed the One Yorkshire proposition which is now established as the settled will of voters.
What more evidence do Ministers want? The longer they stonewall when a groundbreaking devolution deal, the most dynamic and ambitious in Britain, is within touching distance, the greater the likelihood that rival regions, like Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, will forge ahead with high-profile mayors, like Andy Burnham and Andy Street respectively, at their helm.
As such, it is significant that One Yorkshire’s key advocates include John Grogan, the Labour MP for Keighley, and Robert Goodwill, the Tory MP for Scarborough and Whitby. Not only do they represent rival political parties, but their respective constituencies are around 100 miles apart at their extremities and have contrasting policy challenges.
Yet they recognise the size of the prize if the whole county puts the bigger picture first on those issues, like skills, jobs and transport, that transcend cities, towns, villages and coastal communities.
They know, from their own experience at Westminster, that an elected mayor will ensure Yorkshire’s voice is heard clearly nationally and internationally, building on a globally recognised brand.
And they also accept that it is always preferable when key decisions are taken here rather than by Ministers in London – the Government’s mishandling of this summer’s rail chaos offers proof of this.
Given Yorkshire Day’s origins stem from the discord over the local government shake-up of 1974 when historic county boundaries were redrawn, it’s very fitting that today’s leaders now have the confidence – with the support of inspirational people – to take back control of this region’s future.
To do so, they must build on existing political, business and public support – and make a positive case for devolution which persuades the Government to change course. And, to quote Dr John Sentamu, the inimitable Archbishop of York, this means: “Many Peoples, Boroughs, Councils and Counties, but One Yorkshire.”