I’ve lived my whole life in West Yorkshire. I was born in the centre of Leeds and have lived for nearly 25 years in Hemsworth Constituency. Like many of you, I am proud to call this area my home.
It is often said that people from Yorkshire have the strongest sense of pride in where we come from. I’m biased, of course, but it’s not hard to see why.
From our history as one of the engines of the industrial revolution to our proud tradition of fighting for justice, and from our sweeping countryside views to our bustling cities and unique towns and villages, we have much to be proud of.
But when I speak to people from our area and from across Yorkshire there is a sense that things aren’t working the way they should be and that we deserve better.
They are right. Like many of the English regions, Yorkshire has been held back by governments in Westminster whose policies have prioritised large parts of the south, especially the City of London.
Yorkshire, and the north as a whole, has borne the brunt of this.
The think-tank the IPPR North has found that since 2009/10 total public spending in the north has fallen by £6.3bn, while the south east and south west together received a £3.2bn rise in public spending during this period.
And last week a new report from this same think-tank showed that 47 per cent of the increase in jobs in the past ten years has occurred in London and the south east, despite the area being home to just a third of England’s population. Yorkshire is the second worst-off of any area, behind the north east.
There are many more statistics I could use to illustrate England’s regional inequality. On transport, education and infrastructure investment, Yorkshire repeatedly gets a raw deal. Ten years of Tory rule has not been good for us.
But most of us already know just how bad the problem is. The question is, what do we do about it?
Electing a Labour government is part of the answer, and our manifesto had policies to bring investment to the English regions.
But we can’t rely solely on Westminster to solve Yorkshire’s challenges for us. This approach hasn’t worked so far.
That’s why we need devolution. I have long argued that the path to regenerating Yorkshire’s economy, strengthening our many communities and providing opportunity to the millions that live here is through the devolution. There is no way around it.
In our current over-centralised political system we are denied the resources and the political power to make the right decisions for people living in Yorkshire.
So, I welcome the growing campaign for devolution in Yorkshire.
But it’s important that when power and resources are devolved from Westminster to Yorkshire — whether as a single package or in a series of deals — that our new arrangements are properly democratic.
We need clear channels of accountability for newly appointed politicians and we need new mechanisms for giving local people a real say in what happens to their communities.
And, lastly, we must not forget that devolution is not just a means to tackle inequality between the different parts of England, but also inequality within the regions themselves. This is long overdue.