Stig up for Yorkshire

UK parliamentary debates to be replaced by re-runs of Top Gear.  Yorkshire First Deputy Leader, Chris Whitwood, asks what the new cabinet might mean for Yorkshire.

Chris Whitwood

With May now Prime Minister, Hammond as Chancellor of the Exchequer and a man with a reputation for being a loud-mouthed buffoon as foreign secretary, viewers of BBC Parliament may be forgiven for thinking they have accidentally switched over to Dave.  However, despite the former BBC trio's more than occasional quips about it being 'grim up north', Clarkson at least, being a Yorkshire lad, shared some affinity with God's own county.

Sadly, the same can't be said for the newly appointed holders of the four great offices of state.

Since being announced as Prime Minister, Theresa May has already pledged to close the socio-economic and political rift between London and the rest of England.  Yet, those who pledged to deliver a Northern Powerhouse have too often offered plenty of promises but have come up short on cash and meaningful democratic powers.  It is increasingly clear that the people of Yorkshire expect far greater say over our region's future.

Both Philip Hammond, who served as foreign secretary under David Cameron, and Boris Johnson, one of the first to leave the post-Brexit ship when he surprisingly abandoned his own bid to become PM, campaigned hard for Britain to leave the EU in order to take back control.  Let us only hope that this control is passed on to the people of Yorkshire, not in the form of pseudo-democratic city regions but as meaningful powers similar to those enjoyed by Scotland.

The new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who, continuing the Top Gear analogy, appears to be playing the role of The Stig - namely, no one's entirely sure who she is - approved plans to frack in Yorkshire during her time as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.  The opportunity for Yorkshire, which currently produces 16% of the UK's electricity, to become a leader in the generation of green-energy has also suffered from funding cuts on wind farms and carbon capture and storage schemes.

Across the UK, voters are feeling increasingly disconnected from the politics of Westminster elites.  Yorkshire First – the party for Yorkshire – aims to combat this by providing a positive alternative to the London based parties and campaigns actively for a Parliament for Yorkshire.  After all, Yorkshire has a population larger than Scotland; and economy twice that of Wales; and yet have the powers of neither.  The effects of these campaigns are beginning to be felt.

On Thursday, Yorkshire First polled over 16% of the vote in the Fairburn, Brotherton and Byram district council by-election.  Whilst this may not seem earth shattering at first glance, for a party barely two years old, fighting an election against the big beasts of British politics in a ward they have never contested before, such as result is no mean feat.  What’s more, in what many believed should have been a Labour safe seat, a lacklustre and complacent campaign from the incumbent party handed many votes to Yorkshire First and, despite a desperate request for a recount, the results fell in favour of the Conservative candidate.  There can be no denying that Yorkshire First directly affected the vote – it’s time the mainstream took notice before it is too late!

Following the EU referendum, the North-East and North Yorkshire look set to lose out on £665m of European funding.  With the Labour Party too busy infighting and the voice of a strong opposition in absentia, it fall to smaller, yet rapidly growing, regional parties such as Yorkshire First to demand that funding is replenished by Westminster and the God's own county is given the powers to be heard in the rapidly changing post-Brexit political world.

Notes: Published in the Hull Daily Mail - 'Give us powers to be heard' on Monday 18th July 2016 and in the York Press - 'British Politics moves into Top Gear territory' Tueday 19th July 2016.

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