September 25: Osborne is set to power ahead

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HOW times change. Ten years ago, George Osborne was virtually written off as a lightweight novice when he was appointed to the role of Shadow Chancellor as he struggled to make his mark against so-called big-hitters like Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Vince Cable as the banks and global economy imploded.

Fast forward a decade and it is Mr Osborne who is shaping the political and economic landscape of the country – his one-time rivals either left Parliament at the election or were voted out of office – and there’s every likelihood that the Chancellor will succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister.

This was self-evident during the Chancellor’s high-profile trade mission to China to win investment for major infrastructure projects like nuclear power stations and the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse. Carefully choreographed, and totally eclipsing the Lib Dem party conference, it succeeded in portraying Mr Osborne as an international statesman of some repute.

Given the Chancellor’s enhanced standing, it would be unwise of Yorkshire’s business and political leaders to ignore his call for greater co-operation between cities in this region – and across the North. As the leaders of the five Labour-run councils in West Yorkshire prepare to finalise their own devolution blueprint, Mr Osborne’s words are a signal that this county’s best interests will only be served by every local authority pulling in the same direction.

Perhaps that is why Mr Osborne namechecks Greater Manchester so frequently; its leaders decided, with the minimum of prevarication, to work together for the greater good. However it would be remiss of the Chancellor not to acknowledge the mistrust caused by the Government’s decision to “pause” projects like the much-promised electrification of the trans-Pennine rail route. If his Northern Powerhouse plan is to yield the greatest return, he needs to heed The Yorkshire Post’s Back On Track campaign and give such schemes the green light in the forthcoming Autumn Statement.

Over to you, Chancellor.

The wrong remedy

Doctors still rooted to the past

IT GOES without saying that family doctors would like more money – every sphere of the public sector is struggling to cope with the challenges of an ageing society at a time of financial restraint. Yet the British Medical Association’s well-intended reform proposals do not appear to adequately reflect this reality, or the fact that longstanding shortcomings in out-of-hours cover – a legacy of Tony Blair’s administration – are the reason why A&E departments across Yorkshire are buckling under the strain.

Now medical practices at the heart of the funding process, they need to be using their unprecedented powers of influence to shape the service rather than calling for a new national campaign to implore patients to take greater responsibility for their own healthcare and look to use other parts of the NHS “in order to lessen pressure on GP services”. This assertion loses sight of the fact that many patients cannot access the correct treatment without a referral from their local surgery in the first place.

Rather than placing an emphasis on finding new ways to oppose the Government’s plans for an increased number of weekend and evening surgeries, the GPs should, at the very least, see if these reforms do work and lessen the pressure on hospitals. Rooted in communities, they are, in many respects, the gatekeepers to the NHS. If they do their job properly, and ensure that more patients receive the correct treatment from the outset, there is an increased likelihood of the National Health Service being able to meet public expectations. This will not happen, however, if the BMA does not move with the times.

Hand of friendship

Reaching out to Hajj victims

GIVEN the symbolism and significance of the Hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca as Muslims around the world marked Eid al-Adha, our hearts go out to all those families who became caught up in this tragedy – or lost loved ones in yesterday’s stampede which claimed hundreds of lives.

Just as Muslim leaders have reached out to Christians and other faiths when tragedy has struck Britain, most notably the solidarity shown in the wake of the Tunisian terror attack, it is only right that people are respectful of those individuals and communities who are now in mourning.

Not only will the hand of friendship be appreciated by Muslims in their hour of grief, but it can only lead to stronger communities in the future.