18.05.2022

Parliament debates a plan to give Yorkshire devolution

Under radical devolution plans drawn up by senior civil servants – and leaked to a Sunday newspaper (no doubt by a Yorkshireman) – Yorkshire would become a ‘country within a country’, managing its own budget and spending decisions, setting business rates and seeking out foreign investment under the leadership of a powerful mayor and cabinet.

If Catalonia can claim nationhood – and, even more absurdly, Scotland – then why have Boycott’s Boys been kept waiting so long for Yexit? (pictured, Geoffrey Boycott)

Were they dancing in the streets of Yockenthwaite last night? As it happens, no they weren’t, but only because the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band were booked elsewhere.

But I do believe there was an almost discernible air of jubilation in those famous broad acres as the rest of the world began to consider the prospect of adding God’s own county to the list of the world’s proud independent nations.

Wakefield College would become a university – the 13th in Yorkshire – the Humber Bridge toll would be scrapped to encourage tourism, imports and exports, and bilingual road signs introduced (Slow/Hey Up!; Hull/’Ull; Huddersfield/’Uddersfield; and Get in right lane now/What’s thou think thou’s bloody doing?)

OK, the one about the road signs is a joke, but why the ruddy hell shouldn’t Yorkshire stand alone?

If Catalonia can claim nationhood – and, even more absurdly, Scotland – then why have Boycott’s Boys been kept waiting so long for Yexit?

In Catalonia, if I’m not mistaken, they wouldn’t know a googly from a Gaudi: they don’t even play cricket. All that storming up and down the town waving flags – where I hail from, they don’t get that excited, even for Skipton Gala.

Yorkshiremen will simply order another pint, nod wisely and say: ‘Appen.’ It doesn’t do to get overexcited about these things. That’s not to say we won’t take it, of course.

As I say, it’s long overdue. At £110 billion, we have a bigger economy than 11 EU nations, and a GDP (whatever that is) nearly twice that of Wales.

We’ve got a globally famous pudding and iconic tea brands, we’ve got rhubarb, we gave the world Henderson’s Relish, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, John Smith’s and James Herriot, not to mention Last Of The Summer Wine and Bettys tea rooms.

As for sport, with a population of 5.3 million (the same as Scotland), if Yorkshire had been a nation it would have been 14th in the medal table at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yorkshire athletes won more gold than Canada, which has seven times the number of inhabitants.

Ask a Yorkshireman where he goes on holiday and he’ll tell you: Yorkshire. Pictured, Grassmere in the Yorkshire dales

But the truth is that those things don’t really matter. What does matter is a sense of identity, and Yorkshire has plenty of that. Too much, some say.

‘You can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much’ – how true that is.

That’s because Yorkshire is best. Everyone knows it.

Ask a Yorkshireman where he goes on holiday and he’ll tell you: Yorkshire. In their thousands, they flock to Bridlington and Filey and Scarborough. Why would you want to go anywhere else?

An uncle of mine was once tricked by his wife into leaving the county and it was a week of misery and deprivation.

What does matter is a sense of identity, and Yorkshire has plenty of that. Too much, some say

‘Food were rubbish, place was rubbish, people were ’orrible.’

Where had he been? Morecambe. Scarred for life, he was, and never left Hubberholme again.

We don’t go in for a lot of self-doubt in Yorkshire. And that’s another reason we’d make a splendid country.

Not that we’d want too much to do with democracy. Forget a mayor, we’d want a monarch. We like having someone tell us what to do so we can grumble about it.

At one time, Michael Parkinson might have made the shortlist, but Parky’s been down South so long he says ‘mow-the-lawn’ when he means ‘cut-the-grass’.

And adopted Yorkshireman Ed Balls – as an MP he represented Morley and Outwood – is right out. Ballroom dancing? With a proper strong Yorkshire lass, built like a dray horse, he wouldn’t have been able to lift her off the ground, never mind throw her between his legs.

As for William Hague, his credibility vanished when he confessed that as a teenager, he used to knock back 14 pints of beer at working men’s clubs when helping deliver barrels for his father’s drinks firm. Nobbut 14? Is he a bluddy lass or summat?

Yorkshire did better in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games than the whole of Canada. Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis Hill (pictured) is one of their stars

No, there’s only one man: it’s got to be King Geoffrey. Old Boycs has the great advantage – shared with many of his fellow county-men – of never having been wrong. That’s a useful quality in a monarch.

We’ve got some fine ancient ceremonies that would make good telly. It’s not widely known, for instance, th
at when a boy is born in Yorkshire, on his first birthday he is presented with his first flat cap. Family and neighbours gather round to see him wear it. It’s known as peak viewing time.

The world can also benefit from learning a little of the ancient Yorkshire philosophies, captured in our motto: ‘Hear all, see all, say nowt. Eat all, sup all, pay nowt. And if ivver tha does owt for nowt, do it for thissen.’

What better advice could a man need to see him through life?

And what about our musical heritage? I was once driving through Wensleydale with a Scotsman who sneeringly said the only song in Yorkshire was about Ilkley Moor. I soon corrected him.

Had he never heard of the tragic lament Over The Sea To Barnsley? Or the more joyful When I’ve Had A Couple Of Drinks On A Sa’urday, Rylstone Belongs To Me? And what about The Northern Lights Of Old Huddersfield.

Actually, thinking about it, I’m not sure if the plans for Yorkshire devolution being debated in Parliament today will make much of a change, should they come to pass. We’ve always considered ourselves to be… not so much independent as utterly superior in every way to everybody else.

I grew up knowing that people from Lancashire were, with few exceptions, as daft as brushes, while people from Derbyshire were not to be trusted because their eyes were too close together.

Yorkshire has a larger economy than 11 EU countries including Hungary, Slovakia, Luxembourg and others

As for Southerners, well, where to begin? An old pal of mine was offered a job in Kent supervising a vast reservoir. He was delighted – twice the pay back home with a four-bedroom house thrown in.

It was all going well, until his boss took him to the pub for a celebratory drink, just as the London commuters were arriving.

He backed out on the spot. ‘And so would thee if tha’d seen ’em. Striped suits. Briefcases. Umbrellas. All drinking bloody gin-and-tonics. Fair made thee sick to see it. A double shift down t’pit was what they wanted.’

Like many a good tyke before him, he knew he should never have left, and went straight back.

The trouble is – and this may be the insurmountable obstacle for those dreaming of a county united under the proposed banner of One Yorkshire – our innate sense of superiority doesn’t just apply over the border.

Let me explain. I once met a Yorkshireman in Luxembourg who told me what he thought of the place. He couldn’t mek owt on it. He couldn’t mek owt on Germany, either, or France.

I agreed with him, of course. He was Yorkshire. Leeds, he said, was where civilisation had peaked. The people were gods, the place was swimming in wit and wisdom.

‘Giggleswick’s a bit like that,’ I said. He gave me a contemptuous look. ‘That’s near Clitheroe, isn’t it?’ he said with some scorn.

Once you got up to Ripon, they all talked like Geordies and you couldn’t understand a word they said, he added. As for South Yorkshire, Barnsley and Doncaster, that wasn’t Yorkshire at all. That was more the Midlands.

In the south of Yorkshire, he’d observed that they were too lazy to bother putting their false teeth in after breakfast.

In the north, they were too posh. He’d heard that people in Harrogate wore yachting caps to eat salmon out of the tin. He couldn’t mek owt on it.

‘But Leeds is a grand little spot,’ he said. He paused and frowned as he added: ‘Well, most of it is…’

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