Jim McMahon, the new Labour MP for Oldham West is right to express his “deep unease” about the Northern Powerhouse. However it is the only game in town right now and just over the Pennines from his town the pressure is on Leeds City Region to get a similar deal to Greater Manchester’s.

Last week a conference in Leeds frankly discussed the difficulties involved. The background is that there are broadly two rival views on the way forward for Yorkshire. One believes that the county has a brand to die for and needs a single area covering West, North and East Yorkshire. Sheffield and South Yorkshire already have a deal. The other vision is for a Leeds City Region which includes Harrogate, Craven, York and Selby. The argument here is that the North’s best hope is in harnessing the energy of its cities whilst the more rural areas take a slower path to devolution.

Tom Riordan, the able Chief Executive of Leeds City Council is in no doubt he needs the power and resources devolution can bring. The city is without a tram system or adequate flood defences for instance. He is not obsessed with rivalry with Manchester pointing to major differences between the two cities. Leeds is five times as large geographically with large communities nearby like Bradford and Huddersfield. He thinks press reports of infighting are exaggerated but acknowledges there is a problem with the government’s insistence on an elected mayor. The concept was rejected for the City of Leeds three years ago and it is an arguable point whether Chancellor George Osborne can say he has a General Election mandate to insist that his mayoral model covers a wider geographical area.

Riordan insists he is not anti the Yorkshire concept pointing to the county wide cooperation that brought the Tour de France to the county with such brilliant success but the city versus county argument remains fierce. Peter Box, the chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority thinks the county has four distinct economies and with South Yorkshire having already gone its own way, the Greater Yorkshire model is flawed. This is contested by Lord Haskins, the former boss of Northern Foods and now chair of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership. He is a firm believer that the Yorkshire brand has worldwide recognition and should have governance structures to match to promote the county particularly for business in Europe.

While the rest of the county struggles to get its act together it is interesting to look at what is happening in Sheffield. Events there may portend issues that may arise in the Liverpool City and Greater Manchester regions as elections approach for an elected mayor next year. A row has broken out over whether the elected mayor for the whole city region has a veto over all matters within the city itself.

It is also worthy of note that each of these devolution deals is different. Sheffield’s City Region mayor has not been combined with the Police and Crime Commissioner nor could they get vital powers over 16 to 18 year old skills powers. This is why MP Jim McMahon is deeply uneasy about the devolution project which lacks a national framework and coherence.



What do the Hillsborough families, the victims of phone hacking and the brave soldiers who fought in Iraq have in common? They are being strung along by legal and political bureaucracies that need to remember the old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied.


Hillsborough happened in 1989,the Iraq War was in 2003, Leveson reported last November amid press and politician promises of swift action.




There are plenty of explanations for why those responsible for Hillsborough haven’t been brought to justice, why the verdict on the politicians who took us to war in Iraq has still not been delivered and why we still haven’t got an agreed structure to stop the press plundering people’s privacy. It is all taking too long and the result is that the Hillsborough agony is prolonged, the doubts about the Iraq war remain as we contemplate what to do about Syria, and the press remains defiant about legislation underpinning a new code of practice.


Of course accused people, whether they be South Yorkshire police officers, Tony Blair or press barons are entitled to time to defend themselves, but not this much time.


As Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son at Hillsborough, said recently “ I am really tired of this now. I want it over.” The euphoria after the quashing of the original verdicts has now been replaced by a realisation that justice is going to take a long time. The authorities are not moving as fast as they could. For instance at a pre inquest hearing recently the judge was told there had been delays in the Home Office signing off the recruitment of officers for the investigation. Inexcusable. This week the Home Affairs Select committee has said the Independent Police Complaints Commission is “woefully under equipped” for investigating the South Yorkshire force.


Meanwhile Anne Williams, who also lost a son, has died. Only after the new inquest verdicts are delivered (and depending on what they are) can any prosecutions begin. Am I alone in thinking the passage of time, and the apparent lethargy of some of those involved, could lead to the whole thing petering out to the intense frustration of the Hillsborough victims?




Kate and Gerry McCann were subject to gross misreporting and intrusion after the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. The Dowlers’ missing daughter’s phone was hacked. Yet seven months after the Leveson Report politicians and the press are in a stand off that is a disrespectful to the victims of press excess. The political parties reached a deal on what should be done. Some press barons don’t like it, so what? As Lord Denning said “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.” Get on with legislation, there’s plenty of parliamentary time.




Four years ago Sir John Chilcot launched his inquiry into the Iraq War which took place ten years ago. Some people are speculating it could be next year before it reports. Presumably one of the reasons for mounting this expensive exercise was to inform future decisions about Britain’s foreign entanglements. So it would have been handy to have had the findings before us as we contemplate arming the rebels in Syria.


So what’s the delay? Officially it centres on the release of secret government documents but recently former Foreign Secretary David Owen gave a much more serious reason for the delay. He said Tony Blair and David Cameron were blocking the inquiry from seeing extracts of exchanges with former President Bush “using conventions totally inappropriate given the nature of the inquiry.”


Owen went on to suggest this was part of a strategy by Cameron to keep Tony Blair on side and to detach Tony Blair from Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.


True or not, the fact remains that the issues of Hillsborough, Iraq and the press are taking too long to resolve and ordinary people are left in suffering limbo.