in contrast to previous general elections when the political and economic needs of the North played second fiddle to the challenges facing London and the Celtic nations, there is, thankfully, little likelihood of history repeating itself next year.
As the IPPR North notes today on the 10th anniversary of the think-tank’s inception, there is now a belated acceptance that “northern prosperity is national prosperity” – even though Yorkshire and neighbouring regions still lack the levels of infrastructure investment enjoyed by London as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
That said, it should be noted that Yorkshire does now contribute 19 per cent to the national economy compared to just 13 per cent for the devolved countries and there is recognition, from each of the main parties, of the need to provide a 21st century transport network so this region can prosper and attract a new generation of entrepreneurs and industrialists.
They will have to deliver on their recent promises after the election – whether it be a commitment to fund extra rolling stock on overcrowded railway routes or the desire to devolve power, and money, from Whitehall to the city regions so more decisions can be taken locally.
Yet, while these strategic issues are important, the economic recovery is still a fragile one and job security is a more immediate priority for voters. Despite record numbers of people being employment and Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander claiming that the coalition has created “a new job every minute of every working day” since 2010, the TUC insists that only one in every 40 jobs created since the recession has been for a full-time employee.
Either way, the challenge now is ensuring that Britain’s revival is built to last, that it benefits the whole country and that pre-election promises are honoured.
London lessons: Double standards over schools
ANOTHER WEEK – and another report that leaves Yorkshire at the wrong end of league tables pertaining to education excellence. The latest example is a study that reveals the extent to which pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds in London outperform their peers in this region.
Such studies should not be ignored. If Yorkshire is to no longer suffer the ignominy of having the lowest GCSE pass-rate in the country, the reasons behind such disparities need to be understood – and reconciled. The primary role of schools is motivate, inspire and educate, and it could be that teachers need to enlist the support of successful Asian businessmen and role models so their positive experience can help bring academic lessons to life.
Yet this latest report does need to be placed in wider context. Education policy-makers are equally concerned that the performance of children from working class communities in this region is not commensurate with the results being accrued by students from comparable backgrounds in London. Several factors could explain this – parental involvement, quality of teaching or the lure of well-remunerated jobs in London’s financial services industry.
However Yorkshire will not be able to fulfil its economic potential unless it has a world-class workforce equipped with the right skills and training to succeed. That is why lessons do need to be learned from London. For, if standards can rise markedly in one of the world’s most diverse cities, and where English is a second language to so many students, comparable improvements should still be attainable here.
Football’s shame: Sheffield United and Ched Evans
IN light of Sheffield United’s decision to allow convicted rapist Ched Evans to return to training following a request from the Professional Footballers’ Association, it is hard not to suspect that it will only be a matter of time before the striker resumes his playing career at Bramall Lane.
Like all ex-offenders, Evans has the right to work again. But the question is how can he be properly rehabilitated when he refuses to admit his crime or accept that there is anything wrong in having sex with a woman who was too drunk to consent?
Indeed, the only figures to emerge with any credit from this sorry episode are television presenter Charlie Webster, singer Dave Berry and Lindsay Graham, who have all resigned as patrons of the club in protest.
Herself the victim of a sexual assault as a teenager, Webster’s response should tell Sheffield United all it needs to know about the wisdom of its decision. Is it any wonder that respect for football – and those who run it – is at an all-time low?