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Review: The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019

If Liberal success is to be more than transitory, it needs to be based on a clear vision that can easily be transmitted to and acclaimed by the electorate.  On this basis, Yorkshire’s Liberal heritage is about to be reborn. The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019 is bursting with ideas about how a future Yorkshire should develop.  Importantly, these ideas are evidence-based and embedded in sound Liberal principles.

The theme of the book – a devolved Yorkshire administration – is set out clearly in an excellent Foreword by Chris Haskins (former chairman of Northern Foods).  Illuminating comparisons between Yorkshire, Scotland, and London are made by David (Lord) Shutt. Yorkshire, with a population almost identical to that of Scotland, has higher unemployment but a lower GVA per head.  Both have GVA figures far behind that of London. Despite its relative prosperity, though, London is to receive over 50% of planned future transport spending in England, even though its extensive transport system is already massively subsidised by the rest of us.  New ways of sharing are obviously needed.

In this context, the authors build a convincing case for devolution. They emphasise that Yorkshire is a strong “brand”, with a recent track record of sparkling achievement in areas as diverse as sport (the Tour de France) and culture (Hull’s successes as City of Culture in 2017).  Philip Knowles points out that the party constitution implies Yorkshire’s entitlement to local decision-making on matters including health, education, agriculture and transport. Other valuable essays examine how Yorkshire devolution could work as part of a broader federal structure, as well as avoiding over-dependence on Leeds.

I was pleased to note scepticism about proposals for elected mayors, because it is difficult for the public to hold them effectively to account.  Rather the authors show a preference for devolution more along Welsh or Scottish lines, which two decades show to have delivered local accountability and to have engendered self-belief (as if that were lacking in Yorkshire!)

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