One of the most surprising, and yet almost unnoticed, result in the European Elections that have just past was that of Yorkshire and Humber region. If you look down the results list you will notice a new party, that was only founded earlier this year, Yorkshire First. It’s a party that gained nearly 20,000 votes and has eyes on standing candidates during the 2015 General Elections.
Yorkshire First however owes its existence to a small, grassroots, campaign group known as the Yorkshire Devolution Movement (YDM). I caught up with Gareth Shanks, a founding member of YDM and senior figure in the campaign to bring regionalism to Yorkshire, to discuss the sudden rise in the movement.
It would seem that the campaign for Yorkshire devolution is taking off with two parties and a think tank. What is contributing to this rise?
YDM was formed around March 2012 and to say when we started we were the only organised people pushing forward the idea of a Yorkshire parliament it is so encouraging to see the rise of so many other groups, one registered party, one planned to run in the General Election, a growing YDM and tens of campaign groups from the exiled regions of Yorkshire campaigning to be returned home.
I personally think the results are so encouraging because people are sick of the over controlling hands of Whitehall, the London-centric views of everything, in nothing else is this shown better than the HS2 rail project, how about a high speed rail network across the Pennines? Or further developing tram systems in major cities? Of course not, our government is forever fixated with the idea that all roads must lead to London.
Sadly it’s not the only case of London only looking after its self, after forking out billions in the Olympics to improve a very small part of London, when Yorkshire, bidding independently, won the rights to the first leg of the Tour de France, central government originally backtracked on their funding promises and held the organisers at ransom, demanding that they changed the event branding to an all England event, even though it doesn’t leave Yorkshire borders. Only personal intervention from Nick Clegg averted a serious issue.
Have any of the mainstream parties actually shown any support for the idea?
Why should Yorkshire get a devolved Parliament?
Because England is one of the most centralised states in Europe, because London has constantly misjudged or totally ignored Yorkshire’s needs and demands, because instead of relying on London and the South East to prop most of our national economy up, by giving us the powers to properly manage each region’s needs we can finally start moving towards a fairer economy for all of us. Naturally, on top of this already compelling argument, democratically speaking regional assemblies are a proven tactic for getting people more involved in politics, they’re closer to the people so turnout goes up. Instead of having to march 200 miles south to see the person who decides what your day to day life is like, it’s more like a short bus ride into the town center. Finally, Yorkshire has a larger population than Scotland and twice the economy of Wales, yet we have the powers of neither.
What would a Yorkshire Parliament or Assembly actually do? What would it be responsible for?
This is certainly up for debate, however one of the main reason that the 2003 North East referendum failed, was not because the idea was rejected, because the powers that were on offer to the regions were next to nothing. My personal view is to push for a Scottish style system will tax raising powers. Devolution isn’t really one of those things you can do by half measures, if you’re going to do it, do it right.
You can find out more about the Yorkshire Devolution Movement on their website YorkshireDevolution.co.uk or by following them on Twitter @Yorkshire_DM. You can also follow Gareth @WeAreTheClash.