YP Comment: Nigel Farage shook politics to its core

NIGEL FARAGE'S polarising effect on domestic politics can be measured by the public's reaction to his decision to step down as leader of Ukip.

Should the political elite have taken Nigel Farage more seriously?

Some believe Mr Farage fulfilled his mission when Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23 while others contend that he was a bigoted leader who divided Britain and that his outburst in the European Parliament, when he accused all and sundry of ‘never having had a proper job in their lives’, was one diplomatic incident too many.

Either way, Ukip’s ubiquitous leader – the proverbial Marmite politician who was a force for good or guilty of promoting hatred depending on your viewpoint – did promise to cause an earthquake and he was true to his word when the country chose to defy the Government’s will and backed Brexit.

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And unlike Boris Johnson whose Tory leadership ambitions came to a shuddering halt last week when he was hung out to dry by a conniving Michael Gove, Mr Farage cannot be accused of running away from his obligations to introduce a post-Brexit plan – he has never been an MP at Westminster.

Yet this has not stopped the beer-loving ‘man of the people’ from shaking the Tory and Labour parties to their very core. Like it or not, it was Mr Farage who first identified the electorate’s disquiet, especially in the North, about not just the European Union’s governance but also the impact of freedom of movement laws on local communities and economies. And, while the tone of the outgoing Ukip leader’s rhetoric continues to leave much to be desired, his plain-speaking struck a chord with working class voters while Westminster procrastinated.

Perhaps the biggest mistake of the current political elite was their dismissal of Mr Farage rather than treating him as a serious politician who had the capacity to change the country for better or worse.

Tourism travails: Better transport is way forward

AS A Parliamentary committee launches an inquiry into rural tourism, it should be pointed out that this is already a genuine Yorkshire success story – the industry is worth a reputed £7bn a year to this region’s economy. This should not be forgotten before meddlesome MPs start having their two penn’orth. What the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee should be doing, if it has any sense, is looking at how visitor numbers can be boosted still further.

It helps that Britain has some of the most stunning scenery in the world – regular visitors to Yorkshire’s three national parks, or the county’s coast, do not need reminding of this or the secluded spots where people can just while away the time. Yet, though they’re more than accessible to tourists who have their own car or are prepared to tour the region’s highways and byways by bicycle, it is very difficult to visit these rural idylls by public transport.

Though some community-run services do exist, rural bus services have been hit by a succession of cuts while the prohibitive cost of rail travel does deter people staying in London from spending time away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. The problem is that rural Britain continues to be short-changed by the Treasury because of the extent to which spending is skewed in favour of urban areas.

Unless the committee can persuade the new Government to provide countryside communities with a fairer deal so better transport links can be developed, and more affordable housing built, its findings – like all previous reports – will come to nothing and simply gather dust.

Police call-to-arms. Force must get basics right

THERE will, inevitably, be consternation at the number of uniformed police officers in South Yorkshire being taken off the streets to man the phones in the troubled force’s call centre.

Yet some perspective is required. Given that some of the personnel are on light duties due to their medical condition, it makes sense for 999 calls to be answered by experienced officers accustomed to taking operational decisions.

However this does not excuse the fact that a chronic shortage of staff was allowed to develop at the constabulary’s Atlas Court call handling centre in Sheffield, the consequence of which was members of the public waiting longer to receive police assistance.

This is hardly the best way of rebuilding the public’s broken trust after the force’s reputation was tarnished by a succession of scandals – this lost trust will only be won back when the embattled constabulary starts getting the basics right, like answering the telephone on time. It’s not rocket science, is it?