YP Comment: Corbyn guilty of gesture politics over floods visit

ONE year after stricken Cumbrian communities woke to devastating floods which would cause even more destruction four weeks later on this side of the Pennines, Jeremy Corbyn has, at least, made a goodwill visit to see the repercussions for himself.

jeremy Corbyn inspects the flooding damage on Kirkstall Road, Leeds, with local MP Rachel Reeves on New Year's Eve last year.

Little more, however, can be said in defence of the Labour leader. Slow off the mark last winter – it took Mr Corbyn even longer than David Cameron and Liz Truss, the then Environment Secretary, to acknowledge the scale of the disaster – there’s little evidence to suggest that he’s been busy taking affirmative action.

Quite the opposite. Despite some vague utterances about flooding insurance, and under-investment in the Environment Agency, this was rank opportunism – Sowerby Bridge-based Pulman Steel was only chosen for his visit because George Osborne, the former Chancellor, had highlighted the firm’s importance to the Northern Powerhouse.

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Yet, while The Yorkshire Post, and others, used its influence to ask probing questions of the Government about its betrayal of the North in its hour of need, and will not hesitate to do so again, Mr Corbyn failed to speak out on behalf of property owners, and businesses like Pulman Steel, at Prime Minister’s Questions. If he did, no one was listening because he’s simply not taken seriously, and that is to the detriment of politics per se.

Yes, more money needs to be spent. Yet, because Mr Corbyn’s ‘blank cheque’ approach when it comes to borrowing will simply bankrupt Britain, available resources need to be spent more effectively – whether it be working with nature to control the flow of water, as happens in Pickering, basic maintenance of drains so they don’t become blocked by fallen leaves and the North receiving a fairer share of capital funding. And then there is the issue of affordable insurance which MPs and peers of all parties have been highlighting for 12 months. Why is the Labour leader only speaking out now? It’s because this visit was about gesture politics, and little else, and this newspaper will not allow flooding victims to be treated with such contempt by those in positions of power who are unwilling, or unable, to use their influence to protect more homes.

Tolerance of all

CONTRARY to popular perception, tolerance of all remains one of Britain’s most redeeming features. This is a proud Christian country which is also respectful, and appreciative, of people who hold other faiths in a multi-cultural society. The regret is this is being overshadowed by those who hold extreme positions, whether it be intolerant liberals who don’t want Christians to demonstrate their faith, or the violence meted out against Muslims, and with the most tragic of consequences on occasion.

This has now been highlighted by the Anglican Bishop of Leeds – the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines has suggested the rise of secularism means that there are Christians who could be deterred from speaking about their faith in public. It should not come to this. The Church of England is doing some extraordinary work in Yorkshire’s parishes. Without its spiritual teachings and pastoral work, this county – indeed this country – would be much the poorer. Furthermore, multi-faith community work in Leeds offers a positive story of hope which should be told..

As the Bishop said, it is slightly ironic that it is secularists, and not followers of other faiths, who take offence at Christians celebrating Christmas. After a year which will be remembered for political divisions on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps it falls to senior clergymen to use Advent to preach the importance of tolerance so an increasingly intolerant minority cannot undermine this priceless value.

Turning point in Hull’s history

THE symbolism was striking as the first wind turbine blade came off the production line at the state-of-the-art Siemens factory in Hull. Another milestone in the Humber’s green energy revolution which has the potential to fuel economic growth in the region for a generation, it is also a vote of confidence in East Yorkshire which was neglected for too long by Tory and Labour governments alike.

Tangible evidence of 
what is physically possible when the public and 
private sectors pull in the same direction, the challenge now is attracting even more investment on this scale to the region – and making sure school-leavers harness the skills that will enable them to make the most of such opportunities in the future. Let’s hope Siemens is a turning point 
in Hull’s history.