Aisha Iqbal: Yorkshire devolution drama is just a game of divide and rule

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In amongst all this talk of devolution – and the will they or won’t they of Yorkshire being handed a joint, pan-county deal – one thing sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

Ministers seem obsessed with keeping Leeds and Sheffield apart!

Could it have something to do with being petrified of the real powerhouse potential and collective clout of the county’s two biggest cities?

Leeds and Sheffield are behemoths of Britain’s industrial past, and given the chance, can be integral to its future post-Brexit prosperity.

How fantastic if we could team up with our South Yorkshire neighbours – along with our other friends in God’s Own County – to forge genuine, stronger, permanent economic and social ties?

And, of course, give London a run for its money (and indeed our money).

North-South divide? Pah! We are talking West-South-North and East Yorkshire attack!

Talking of divides, the age old political game of divide and rule is clearly heavily at play here.

Let’s not forget that both Leeds and Sheffield are huge Labour heartlands.

The Conservatives have no real elected presence in Sheffield, either at council or parliamentary level.

And in Leeds, Labour is dominant.

Party politicised Government meddling is always going to be easier when you are running the rule over a million people rather than five million.

I personally don’t think either Leeds or Sheffield need the so called ‘city deals’ to shape their future success. Not every complex political situation is solved by a Brexit-style breakaway.

I’m all for city and regional identities, but I don’t think you have to lose one to fully embrace the other. You can maximise and cherish every part of your identity while acknowledging the importance of looking to the future. That’s life.

So why should our approach to our fiscal future be any different to our approach to life in general?

During a House of Commons debate this week, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said it was “absolutely clear” there is no agreement around the so-called ‘One Yorkshire’ deal, and stressed (yet again) that the Government is pushing ahead with selecting a mayoral candidate for the Sheffield City Region. He also criticised those who he says are trying to “undermine” the South Yorkshire option.

This is nonsense.

We, in Yorkshire, should be dictating our own future together, rather than being bullied by the Government’s thinly veiled and – frankly – arrogant separatist tactics.

And another thing. We are all getting so caught up in calling for more devolved powers and cash that we are forgetting one crucial thing.

Devolution in England is a misnomer. It is really just a reversal of the increasing centralisation of the last few decades.

We are not really aiming to become part of a new Northern Powerhouse – we are reclaiming the old one.

Dominic Raab.

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