YP Comment: 30 days to go, time for a more mature EU debate

SO much for the European Union referendum being a great exercise in democratic renewal which not only settles Britain's relationship with the EU for a generation but also rekindles the electorate's interest in public affairs.

Boris Johnson in York this week.

With 30 days to go, the daily mudslinging is not only bringing the conduct of politics into disrepute but threatens to alienate those voters who are taking their duties seriously ahead of June 23 and are trying to come to a considered decision.

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If all they’re going to get are the alarmist scare stories being propagated by the increasingly frenetic – some might argue desperate – Remain and Leave campaigns, they can’t be blamed if they choose not to engage in political debate in the future or, in some cases, decide not to stand for public office.

This should be an opportunity for both sides set out the advantages of disadvantages of their respective arguments before allowing voters to consider what is best for their needs and also future generations, namely those who are too young to vote next month. Yet, rather than addressing the specific concerns of women or young families for example, the campaign is degenerating into a battle of egos exemplified by the unseemly struggle for the heart and soul of the Conservative Party now being waged between David Cameron and Boris Johnson after these two Old Etonian contemporaries fell out spectacularly. Irrespective of the referendum’s outcome, the conduct of both will only make it harder for the Government to come together after polling day and concentrate on building a more prosperous economy for all.

As such, it won’t be Britain which is the biggest loser of all if the negative campaigning degenerates still further over the next 30 days. It will be the whole democratic process – and the country’s political elite will only have itself to blame.

Forging ahead: Can West Yorkshire do better?

EVEN though the devolution debate appears to have stalled because unanimity cannot be reached on the way forward for the whole of Yorkshire, this impasse must not prevent individual areas from looking at how best to deliver a new era of prosperity. Nor has it. In this regard, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region LEP have come up with a 10-point plan to create 37,500 new jobs over the next 20 years and generate more growth than the national average.

Such ambition should be applauded – the question is whether the area should be setting its sights even higher by aiming to become the UK’s fastest growing region in terms of jobs and investment. Though the emphasis on skills is even more pertinent in the wake of the joint report by IPPR North and Teach First on education under-funding, recent events demand that practical lessons are taken on board when it comes to flood alleviation measures and transport following recent events.

First flooding. The level of under-investment by successive governments is such that local councils like Leeds will need national support – and David Cameron needs to honour his promises to Yorkshire. Now transport. Though the emphasis is on new-style ticketing, major infrastructure improvements are required.

The challenge, in the wake of the trolleybus fiasco in Leeds, is making sure these schemes are built on time, on budget and also deliver the maximum return to taxpayers and commuters alike. This requires the best civil engineers in the country and also proper management oversight, neither of which happened with trolleybus.

Road to nowhere: Rural Yorkshire stuck in a jam

THE rural Yorkshire of today is very different to bygone decades when a rush hour traffic jam consisted of a herd of cattle or sheep being moved from one field to the next – or a solitary driver becoming stuck behind a tractor or combine harvester on a narrow country lane at an inopportune time.

Its highways and byways are far busier due to country dwellers driving further for work purposes – or simply to access key services. Despite problems with broadband, countryside communities are also home to a wider range of small businesses as the rural economy diversifies out of necessity. However, as the Federation of Small Businesses makes clear, maintenance of rural roads has failed to keep pace with the increased usage of such routes. Though devolution policy continues to focus on urban conurbations, rural towns, villages and hamlets will not be able to fulfil their untapped economic potential if local roads continue to deteriorate at the current rate.