Yorkshire’s political leaders have snubbed the Yorkshire Party’s attempt to build consensus support for its Pledge as part of the wider devolution campaign.
Party Leader Stewart Arnold wrote to all the county’s 51 MPs, its six MEPs and council leaders whose authorities had not publicly backed One Yorkshire, to urge them to sign the Pledge to show their support for the county in a non-party-political initiative.
None signed the Pledge even though the Party set up a ‘neutral’ online system specifically for the campaign.
And only four of the MPs – all Labour members, even bothered to reply. They were Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) and Clive Betts (Sheffield South East).
Yorkshire Party Deputy Leader Chris Whitwood hoped Yorkshire’s electors would call their MPs and MEPs to account when they stood for re-election.
“MPs and MEPs are understandably rather busy at present. However, it is disappointing, to say the least, that so few even took the time to respond to, let alone actively participate in, the recent non-party political campaign to support One Yorkshire that the Yorkshire Party has recently been championing.
“This is an issue that has the potential to shape the future of our region, pass power to our local communities and empower the people of Yorkshire. Devolving powers to a stronger Yorkshire in a fairer United Kingdom is too important an issue to ignore.
“I therefore encourage every supporter of One Yorkshire to write to your local MP and MEP demanding they voice their support for a devolution deal that will give our region the voice it so desperately needs,” he said.
When he announced the Pledge mail-out in September, Stewart said: It’s important we build a broad, cross-party consensus towards One Yorkshire. That’s why I have written to the county’s leading political figures, at national and local level, urging them to get behind the One Yorkshire initiative.
“There is a real danger of Yorkshire getting left behind as other parts of the country such as Manchester and Liverpool, get the devolution that will help them deliver economic and social progress.
“It is essential for Yorkshire and its people that we deliver this real, meaningful devolution as soon as possible.”
While not signing the Pledge, several of the MPs who did respond showed their support for Yorkshire devolution.
In her letter Caroline Flint wrote that “along with my 36 Yorkshire Labour MPs will to press the Government to deliver for the people of Yorkshire”.
She wrote to Stewart: “I, too, wish to see the breadth of opinion supporting Yorkshire devolution to be heard.”
Hilary Benn wrote that he supported the One Yorkshire proposal.
One of the reasons Robert Goodwill used for not signing was that he claimed the Yorkshire Party’s aims went beyond the regional devolution package that a metro-mayor would deliver.
Clive Betts refused to support One Yorkshire, saying he believed his constituents’ interest lay in developing the Sheffield City Region.