Today will be no different. As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, something supported by a significant and vocal majority of voters in this region, this is a county on an upward trajectory.
Just look at the number of cranes on the skyline as redevelopment and regeneration continue apace in Yorkshire’s major cities – and compare this to a decade ago when growth, and investment, was grinding to a halt because of the looming recession.
The Yorkshire of today is unrecognisable from the county of 10 years ago. Even Bradford’s infamous ‘hole in the ground’, a dispiriting symbol of these times, is now a vibrant and thriving shopping centre while traditional manufacturing industries – this county’s backbone for so long – are being usurped, not least by the digital economy and the exciting new opportunities that this sector offers residents.
Yet the frustration is that Yorkshire has so much more to offer and that this region’s limitless potential will not be maximised until the Government invests sufficient sums in this county’s human capital – school standards have lagged behind the rest of the country for an unacceptable number of years and are having a detrimental impact on job prospects – as well as the area’s transport and business infrastructure so more world-leading companies can be persuaded to invest here.
To this end, The Yorkshire Post devotes today’s edition to the biggest challenges facing the region, the opportunities and the specific areas where we hope Theresa May and her new Government will act in the coming weeks and months.
As political and business leaders attempt, with varying degrees of success, to make devolution work for Yorkshire – ironically Yorkshire Day stems from the botched local government reorganisation of 1974 – we will continue to campaign, lobby and speak out on behalf of the whole region, whether it be the key towns and cities or the area’s rural heartlands as the Dales national park is officially extended into the Lake District today.
Today we highlight the six key policy themes – business, devolution, energy, education, farming and transport – which require the most urgent action by Ministers. As well as analysis of each issue, this special Yorkshire Day publication, which will be delivered to Downing Street later today, includes expert commentary on the county’s future and an open letter to Mrs May which implores “the new PM to commit to helping this already remarkable county achieve its full potential”.
We hope Mrs May receives the newspaper in the spirit in which is intended. This is not a criticism of her deliberate decision to prioritise visits to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast in the opening weeks of her premiership – the very future of the United Kingdom is just one of many pressing issues in an invidious in-tray.
But it is a polite reminder that Mrs May does need to deliver the “better Britain” she promised on the steps of 10 Downing Street at the outset of her premiership on July 13 when she spoke eloquently about her agenda of aspiration and promised to “do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you”.
Welcome words, many of the Tory leader’s themes do, in fact, chime with Yorkshire’s own priorities – and it is encouraging that the new Northern Powerhouse Minister is, in fact, Andrew Percy. The Brigg and Goole MP grew up in Hull and knows, from first-hand experience, the uphill struggle that the Tory party still faces in these parts if it is to win over the sceptics.
Conversely, there is concern that one of the new Government’s acts was to disband the two flooding envoys appointed last winter – neither Mrs May, nor any Minister, should need any reminding of the depths of palpable anger, residual to this day, when David Cameron’s false promises to victims of the Yorkshire floods proved to be less than water-tight as this newspaper exposed the betrayal.
And that is Mrs May’s greatest challenge. For all the rhetoric on the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and her predecessor Mr Cameron’s bold announcement in Shipley in May 2010 that his administration would rebalance the economy so it became less London-centric, all the evidence points to infrastructure and public spending continuing to be skewed in favour of the capital and Home Counties despite the best efforts of this region’s leaders and organisations like Welcome to Yorkshire which is a world leader in tourism.
We sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will change this mindset and replace the platitudes with positive action. Given that the redoubtable Geoffrey Boycott is one of Theresa May’s sporting heroes, she will be all too aware of the timeless cricketing adage that a strong Yorkshire equates to a strong England when it comes to the much cherished summer game.
Yet this principle very much equates to the current political landscape – a strong and prosperous Yorkshire will mean a stronger economy for the whole of Britain at this critical juncture.
Given this, we look forward to receiving Mrs May’s response to this publication – and welcoming the Prime Minister to a county like no other in the near future to discuss the issues, the challenges and the opportunities that exist for Yorkshire and Britain if more of the policy agenda is driven by the needs of the North rather than London’s best interests.
If the political will is sufficient, there’s no reason why Yorkshire Day 2016 should not be a watershed moment for a proud county which hopes its best days are still to come.