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Why Osborne’s ‘Boris of Leeds’ is not the answer

June 24, 2014

There is no comparison between the London of which Boris is elected Mayor and the Leeds, Sheffield or Hull that the Chancellor proposes has an elected Mayor.

Firstly, Boris’s London is one of the twelve government regions of the UK whereas the Chancellor’s proposal refers to mere cities within government regions of the UK. To compare with London on that basis, the Chancellor would have to be proposing a Boris for another one of the twelve government regions of the UK such as ‘Yorkshire and the Humber’, ‘The North East’ or ‘The North West’

Then there is the fact that London, with its population of more than 8.2m, easily has the critical mass to be effective and efficient as a devolved entity. Compare this with the Leeds population of less than 1m, just 752,000, and it becomes clear that Leeds has nowhere near the critical mass required. It would inevitably find itself in a position where it has to collaborate or combine with other entities in order to achieve anything worthwhile, as has been proven by LEPs and local authorities recently with their ‘collaboration agreements’ and ‘combined authorities’.

A further consideration is ‘identity’. Whereas Boris is elected Mayor of an area called ‘London’ which is populated by people who identify themselves as ‘Londoners’, the people of Sheffield or Hull or Leeds all identify themselves as’ Yorkshire’ or ‘Tyke’ and most would not even consider there being an identity pertaining to their particular city. Can you imagine someone from Leeds thinking of himself as a Leodensian rather than a Yorkshireman?

Whereas ALL London benefits from the devolution bestowed upon London, vast tracts of Yorkshire would be excluded from the Chancellor’s proposals altogether and the cities that were not would be limited in their ability by their lack of critical mass. As previously mentioned, they would need to combine and collaborate in order to achieve. So why not do that from the start and have a single devolved entity which both has the critical mass and respects the identity of people? Why not have a devolved Yorkshire?

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