I’m not a stranger to poor jokes coming out of the Conservative government. When George Osborne was awarded the GQ Politician of the Year award after a comment that the pages he featured on ‘were the only ones not glued together,’ back when he won the accolade in 2011, I struggled to see how anyone would be laughing. A matter of days later, Cameron has taken the pew — with the people of Yorkshire as the punchline.
Speaking at a conference in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: ‘We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much.’
According to the video content released by The Guardian, it appears that only one person in the crowd was laughing.
Although there are 5.7 million people in Yorkshire, it seems that not one, but two idiotic stereotypes make it worthwhile for Cameron.
Seeing the county as a relegated trope ideal for a jibe not only illustrates the Prime Minister’s ignorance concerning the intelligence, creativity and potential of the county, but shows a seething lack of recognition that the county is so bitter because of the government’s grim will to pit communities against each other.
Holding the second-highest area unemployment rate and child poverty rates of one in four below the national average, resulting in almost half of 11-year-olds from deprived backgrounds in Yorkshire do not get to the standard of reading, writing and maths expected of the age group, according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
In spite of this, Cameron’s government insist that ‘poor parenting’ is behind the heart of the report.
London receives twenty-four times more spending on infrastructure than the entirety of Yorkshire, Londoners receive £5,203 more per head on capital investment than people in the north-east. Arts Council England spend £41.03 per head for people in London – compared with £13.74 for the people of Yorkshire.
It’s not the age-old rivalry between Hull and Grimsby that is to blame. As further rhetoric regarding ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘swarms’ permeates the national consciousness in cheap television shows and tacky tabloid headlines, Yorkshire has been puppeteered into poverty with straw men to blame.
As the ‘Northern powerhouse’ seeks to tar the county as ‘one agenda, one economy, one North,’ it shamefacedly fails to recognise the nuances of the cities, the rural communities and the seaside towns that all contribute towards making Yorkshire Yorkshire. Each constituent has its own way to make money and it does not rely on a cheap plan that starves half of the country whilst its leaders focus on pumping more cash into its London-centric spreadsheet.
To term the north as a ‘powerhouse’ only further indicates that the Tory party see Yorkshire in its past glory without any recognition of its party’s destruction. In Hull, my hometown, the powerhouse was destroyed when our maritime port was destroyed in the seventies. In Sheffield, it was destroyed when the steel works shut down. Barnsley and Wakefield are just a few of the communities that took the hit of the mine closures, and have been struggling on a road to recovery ever since.
In short, Mr Cameron, I don’t believe that the Yorkshire community hates each other as much as you would like to think. Perhaps it hates you for you and your party’s lack of deference and understanding of its 5.7 million people.