DAVID Cameron was caught making an off-hand comment about the people of Yorkshire during a major speech in Leeds today, according to the BBC.
Apparently expressing his frustration at the region’s failure to reach agreement on devolution plans, the Prime Minister was recorded off-camera saying, “We thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else - we didn’t realise they hated each other.”
A transcript of the exchange was posted on Twitter by BBC correspondent Alex Forsyth.
The comment appears to refer to the wrangling in the region over how to take control over more powers and money from Whitehall.
Last week, six different devolution plans were presented to the Government as local authorities in the region failed to reach a comprehensive agreement on the best way forward.
The proposals include West Yorkshire councils joining forces with neighbours Harrogate, York, Craven and Selby - an area known as the Leeds City Region - and a rival plan that would see a single devolution deal struck covering an area known as ‘Greater Yorkshire’ stretching across West, North and East Yorkshire.
At an event in Leeds this morning, Mr Cameron took the opportunity to appeal to council leaders to find a way forward.
He said: “It’s very exciting that different authorities in Yorkshire have come up with a range of schemes for that devolution to take place.
“Obviously they have only just arrived and we now to examine them but I would hope that the more that politicians can work together and come together across party lines and try and agree the right structure the easier it will be to devolve those powers for the benefit of people here in Yorkshire.”
The devolution debate has begun to fracture on party lines in recent days with Conservative MPs and councillors largely supporting the Greater Yorkshire idea and Labour councillors pushing for the Leeds City Region proposal.
But the Prime Minister today pledged to judge the region’s devolution proposals on their merits.
Describing the proposals submitted by six different groups earlier this month, David Cameron said they had produced some ‘exciting’ ideas over transport and skills.
He wouldn’t be drawn on whether there was a front-runner, but said he was looking forward to reviewing them.
He said: “I think the whole point about this process is we are asking local communities to come up with proposals and there’s no one size fits all. Different things can be done in different parts of the country, different combinations of authorities can come together in Yorkshire obviously a lot of different proposals have come forward and we are looking forward to studying them.”
However he asked that political leaders come together for the good of the region and reiterating in his speech in Leeds that the devolution vision is embedded in cross-party values.
He said: “What’s exciting is that people are really engaged in the process and universities are involved, different authorities are involved, people have worked across different political boundaries to try and come up with exciting proposals but we will look at them on their merits but obviously the more politicians that can come together locally the better.”