Strike must not spoil the party

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YORKSHIRE has never seen anything like it. Nor is it likely to again.

A week today, the world’s greatest cyclists will mass outside Leeds Town Hall as they prepare for their assault on what is one 
of the planet’s most iconic races.

Following months of planning, preparation and anticipation, the Grand Départ is almost here – and the sense of excitement around the county is palpable.

It is deeply disappointing, therefore, that Yorkshire ambulance staff appear determined to play the role of party poopers.

Yesterday they announced their intention to take strike action that coincides with the race’s journey through Yorkshire as part of their long-running dispute over working conditions and patient safety.

No doubt they have taken this step in the hope that it can be used as leverage in order to win concessions from ambulance chiefs desperate to avoid such a scenario. Yet such a step is surely opportunism of the worst sort and threatens to erode any public sympathy for their position.

With two million people expected to line the route, it is vital that the necessary medical support is available to spectators. It is therefore to be hoped that a solution to this issue can be found.

As concerning as this development is, however, it must not be allowed to take the gloss off what will be a red letter day for Yorkshire and British cycling in general.

The eyes of the world will be fixed on the white rose county – and doubtless it will rise to the occasion.

The London Grand Départ in 2007 was widely hailed as a watershed moment for the sport in this country and the best opening leg in the race’s history. Yet next weekend in Yorkshire, its success will be eclipsed.

And, as renowned cycling journalist Richard Moore notes in this newspaper today, it would be entirely fitting if next Saturday’s first stage should culminate in a win for British sprinter Mark Cavendish, and with it the first maillot jaune of his career, in the town where his mother, Adele, was born.

Going to waste: County binning £1.1bn of food

AT a time when so many households complain of being financially stretched – what Ed Miliband insists on branding the “cost of living crisis” – it is inconceivable that an estimated £1.1bn of food each year is being wasted in Yorkshire alone.

Yet that is exactly what is happening in a county that has traditionally prided itself on its capacity for frugality. It is a picture of wastefulness that is replicated across the country – and the perfect recipe for catastrophe in a world harbouring deep concerns over fast dwindling resources.

Supermarkets are by no means blameless. The National Farmers’ Union is rightly calling for an end to the habit of retailers rejecting what they deem to be ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables and for more common sense to be exercised when it comes to buy one, get one free offers.

There is also a belief that the system of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates causes some confusion which contributes to the problem.

Ultimately, however, the bulk of the responsibility for this profligacy must rest with the consumers themselves.

Harried modern lives do not comfortably lend themselves to shopping as required, leading to the bulk purchasing of items – often fruit and vegetables – which are then left uneaten.

Yet with a little more thought and better meal planning, more food will be tasted rather than wasted and, if that is not incentive enough, a family with children could potentially save around £700 a year.

Toomey’s triumph: Jump jockey wins race for life

THE JUMP jockey Brian Toomey is living proof of the National Health Service at its brilliant best – and why its surgeons, doctors and nurses should never be taken for granted.

Without their skill, the 25-year-old would not be in a position to contemplate a return to race-riding one year after a fall at Perth left him on the brink of death.

It was summed up by the intensive care nurse who told him that she had witnessed two “miracles” in her 22-year career - and that the North Yorkshire rider was one of them.

Yes, the NHS has its faults – and these are well-documented – but they also need to be seen in the context of the lifesaving care that is provided every hour of every day of every year.

Without it, Brian Toomey would not have won his own race for a life and be in a position to offer three words of advice to those facing adversity: “Don’t give up.”

He never did and is now on the brink of an improbable comeback courtesy of the NHS and his own willpower.