The alternative to the alternative

Clearly people are sick of the main political parties in the UK, UKIP made huge strides in the European elections, and have recently done what many people said they’d never do. The peoples of Clacton, Rochester and Strood have elected to parliament two former Tories who now stand for UKIP.

UKIP are a party of againstists, they’re against the EU, they’re against a public NHS, they’re against gay marriage, but it’s very hard to see what they are for. This is depressing. In an age when millionaire politicians are forever telling us what benefits and public services they are cutting, because as a nation we are too poor, surely we need to look to a more positive answer to our problems. The turnout for the European elections was really poor, it was around 35%, and the recent by-elections weren’t much better at about 43% with UKIP gaining about 60% and 38% respectively. Is this proof of the publics disgust at the political status quo? Yes, is it an endorsement of UKIP? No. Nigel Farage claimed that the  European election wins were proof that people were sick of the established parties, and they wanted a change, a UKIP led change, but the fact is that only about 10% of eligible voters actually voted for his party, more just didn’t vote at all, apathy was the winner, not UKIP.
As you may be aware, this summer saw a Scottish independence referendum, which the no campaign won, just. In the end it was a really close call, much closer than most people expected, indeed in the last few weeks of the contest Scottish independence looked like a real possibility. I believe the reason for this lies with the way in which both campaigns were viewed. The yes campaign was seen as positive, offering voters a vision of how they could change the system and be better off, whereas the no campaign was seen as negative with scaremongering, and playing on voters fears about the pound and oil. Many of the people who were asked why they shifted from a no to a yes claimed that the negativity of the no campaign was a strong factor.  In stark contrast to recent elections in England, the referendum in Scotland had an incredible turn out too of around 85%, are the Scots politics mad people who love voting? Of course not, the difference here was that the people of Scotland had a real decision to make where the opportunity for change was real.
So what happens if UKIP get 10-15 MP’s at the general election? Will we see dramatic change? No. We’ll still have a Westminster government dictating to the rest of the UK, the only difference will be that with UKIP possibly holding the balance of power there will be a shift to the right. The thing is it’s not the the colour of the tie that needs changing, it’s the whole way in witch the political system works for people. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, perhaps that should read England, for if you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales there is at least some degree of devolved decision making, England, however, is ruled by the iron fist of London. The regions of england have to go cap in hand to Westminster every time they want anything, and since regional development bodies like Yorkshire Forward were scrapped, it’s become even more like begging. It’s no coincidence that 9 of the 10 poorest areas in the whole of northern Europe are in the UK, whilst the richest is Inner London. Power, money, the media, almost everything is concentrated in the capital and I think it’s about time that changed.
We need to devolve power within England. An English parliament, favoured by the Tories and UKIP, isn’t the answer, all you do is replace the words UK parliament with English parliament, essentially it’s still the same thing, a South East dominated body detached from the other regions in the country. What we need is regional devolution, but not watered down devolution being offered by Labour. LEP’s, city regions, or what ever you want to call them, are both unelected and ineffective, nobody asked for them and nobody really knows what they do, and in my opinion if you base decision making around a single city, all you’ll do is drag the money to that city. Leeds for example is the centre of the Leeds City Region, which is designed to benefit the whole of West Yorkshire, but as the most dominant part of this partnership there is surely the danger of Leeds coming first, ahead of Wakefield, Calderdale, Bradford etc.. The other problem for me is what if you don’t live in a city? What city region does the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District fit into? Surely it would be better to have a democratically elected body that can represent all the different parts of a region, fairly.

Yorkshire has an economy and a population easily big enough to warrant its own assembly, indeed it’s population is similar to that of Scotland and it economy is larger than that of Wales. This is a positive solution, giving power to people over the region they know best will make a real difference. By standing for this, Yorkshire First has given the people of Yorkshire an option, if you’re sick and tired of Westminster, if you want a change, and you don’t want to vote for negative parties that don’t have the interests of the region at heart, then vote for Yorkshire First. I would urge everybody who wants change for Yorkshire to sign the Yorkshire Pledge,  www.yorkshirepledge.org.uk, and if you have the opportunity to, vote for Yorkshire First. A few UKIP MP’s here or there won’t make a difference, but one Yorkshire First MP would send a real message to those in charge that it is time for Yorkshire.

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LOCAL PRIDE, ITS A FUNNY THING

WP_20140827_002 (2)I’m a proud Yorkshire man, I’m proud to be many things: English, British, even European, but above all I’m proud to be from God’s own county. So with last seasons FA Cup final featuring a team from London and a team from Yorkshire, you would assume I was cheering on the Tigers, and you’d be correct – but this rule doesn’t always apply. If either Leeds or Huddersfield were in the final I would gladly cheer for any team that was playing against them, even if they were from over the Pennines in Lancashire. Why is this? Surely I should want the teams local to me to do well?
As a Bradford City supporter the next best thing to seeing City win is seeing Leeds or Huddersfield lose, and I suppose because they are our closest rivals (in a geographical sense at least), it makes sense. In all walks of life you want to get one over on your neighbours don’t you?  That sense of wanting to be the best on your patch can easily become a general dislike of those you want to be better than, and this is what makes derby games the most anticipated in the calendar. When I talk to friends of mine that support Leeds about this they dismiss it as jealousy, inferring that living in the shadow of such an illustrious club, we of the smaller club are bitter and green-eyed, to which I obviousy reply with “yeah cos I’m well jealous of a mid table Championship club who have been to less cup finals in the last ten years than us” -almost certainly not helping my cause. But it can’t be just a jealousy thing. For example, we genuinely have nothing to be jealous of Huddersfield for, yet the rivalry is just as keenly felt. For me, more than anything it’s about having someone to be the pantomime villain, the token enemy – Star Wars doesn’t work without the Dark Side, and the opportunity to rub it in with friends and colleagues at work who support the other lot means that the more local it gets the better a rivalry is, and the better that feeling of winding them up becomes.
The silly thing is I can see how childish and unproductive all this hatred is. Let’s face it, when Bradford City was at its peak in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, all the other West Yorkshire teams were doing well also – Leeds were in Europe, Huddersfield were in the Championship, and Halifax were a Football League club. Today only one of those things is still true, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence either. When your local rivals do well it pushes you on to do better yourself and healthy rivalry based on trying to do better is surely more productive than hatred and negativity. The real rivals should surely be those we have least in common with, I mean when you see the money being thrown about at Man City and Chelsea and their flagrant lack of respect for financial rules, they should be enemy all football fans should rally against, but it doesn’t get your juices flowing like a local rival, all it breeds is indifference.
I suppose local rivalry is inevitable, and also important – financially derby games are a massive bonus for clubs, and the supporters get a few games a year that take on more importance than just the three points up for grabs. The problem is that when rivalry becomes hatred, it isn’t healthy for anyone. Nobody enjoys scenes like those after recent Tyne-Wear derbies where emotions spill over into violence and disorder, and surely it’s much better to be able to sit in the pub with friends from the other side and have a bit of banter about the result and enjoy the unique experience of the local derby. Don’t get me wrong I’ll never cheer for Leeds, but let’s just hope the next time we play each other in the league it’s in the same division as the last time we did.
(This post was originally posted on a football blog I contribute to (straightyellowcard.wordpress.com). Bradford city have since played, and beat, Leeds, and my immediate reaction was of it not quite meaning as much as I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong it was great to put one over on Leeds, but I just don’t think I dislike them as much as I used to, maybe I am growing up after all!)