Richard Carter is the leader of the newly formed Yorkshire First – the party for Yorkshire, who are campaigning for an elected regional parliament in the county with powers similar to those already in Scotland. The recent referendum north of the border has opened a wider debate about the future of the British constitution and whether powers from the Houses of Parliament should be spread more equally across England. Yorkshire First, after only seven weeks of existence, registered more votes than the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green Party and UKIP did in their debut elections at the European Polls of May 2014, establishing them as a real voice for change in the region’s political landscape.
Check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yorkshirefirst
After the Interview at the bottom of the page you will find Richards answers to questions sent in by some of you.
JR: What inspired you to found Yorkshire First?
RC: Like many people a couple of years ago I was very angry with politicians. This led me to say to my friends, “I’ve had enough; this country deserves what it gets.”
One day somebody said to me “Richard, you’ve got some ideas, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and do something about it rather than mouthing off!” I thought they had a point.
I have always been a proud Yorkshireman, who has felt that we needed more powers. People fighting with their hands tied behind their backs can’t win and I felt that Yorkshire was doing exactly that and had been for many years.
We also recognised that other areas, such as Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London already have devolved Parliaments, but where in England do people have this same regional feeling as us? There are not many places.
JR: Cornwall and The North East?
RC: Cornwall has a smaller population of around 600,000 whereas Yorkshire has 5 million people, virtually the same as Scotland. If we don’t get the same first class devolution as they have in Scotland, Wales and London, then we are going to be left as a second class region and we don’t want that. Something needs to be done about it.
JR: When did Yorkshire First officially become a political party?
RC: The start date for the Yorkshire First Party was on the 31st March 2014 but I’d had the genesis of the idea for a year previously. I negotiated with our deputy Stewart Arnold to be the lead candidate for the European Elections, because I live abroad.
It would be about taking some powers from the UK government because we believe that Yorkshire people will focus on the right issues, whereas the national parliament has to do what is right for all.
That could be what’s doing right for London, which in my opinion is how it works, or they could do what’s right for other areas. To me the National government only does what’s right for London and the South East.
Nine out of ten of the poorest areas in Northern Europe are in the United Kingdom, three of which are in historic Yorkshire, while Inner London is the wealthiest area in this region, so something is not working correctly in this country.
JR: Do you think that this is because a lot of the cabinet are from that area and went to public school in the South East?
RC: No I don’t think it’s so much that. The fact is that the UK, is one the most centralised governments in the developed world along with Japan. The Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP have mirrored this and become highly centralised parties. They have copied the state and their view is what’s best for London is what is best for everybody else. We do not accept the fact that we should carry on as we are.
“We have a once in a 300 year opportunity to build a strong United Kingdom that works for every part of the country.”
When I mean every part I mean not just London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It’s not just the parties that centralises everything it’s the BBC and national newspapers too. We are being stifled culturally by this dominance of the South East and everything has to be done right for them. I think it is wrong. People from the South West are English but are different from Yorkshire people. When we have regional parliaments around England I think these differences will be celebrated and help to get rid of this dominance by a UK government which only acts in the interests of London.
JR: Where would a Yorkshire Parliament be based and how would it work?
RC: We did a survey of our members and Facebook followers. The general consensus was that the historical capital of Yorkshire is York, and that is where the Parliament should be. If you put it in Leeds it’ll be a problem to those in Sheffield or Hull and vice versa.
There is devolution theory and devolution fact. The theory is giving more powers to thelocal authorities, city regions and combined authorities. We also have devolution fact that in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland they have a devolved system that works. Therefore Yorkshire should have the same powers as the Scots or the Welsh.
Yorkshire has 1,225 councillors with no powers. What we say is get rid of those and replace them with 3 or 4 MYPs, (Members of Yorkshire Parliament) who are elected every 4-5 years. You would keep the existing constituencies and use a fair voting system so that it reflects the views of the people more accurately so you do not end up with “rotten boroughs” like Rotherham for example. Now we all know what’s happened there and things seem to have been covered up in some ways, maybe because the political council is too close to the local authority?
We say get rid of political council’s altogether, e.g.Leeds City council, Sheffield Council etc. You do not need these because they have no powers, and replace them with 150-200 MYPs, who are directly elected from every part of Yorkshire based on population. They can also oversee local authorities and make sure they are doing their jobs properly. From each constituency send three MYPs to the Yorkshire Assembly and then one to the UK parliament for votes on national issues, such as defence, foreign policy and macro-economics. You could also potentially reduce the number of National MPs because we don’t need 650 of them. I’d rather see half of that but doing a proper job and knowing what it is they are supposed to be doing, and some not thinking ‘I’m on a nice MP salary and I can do other jobs as well,’ which is what we currently have.
We would also enhance the powers of parish and town councils because they are closest to the people. Right now these have tiny amounts of power that are not fit for purpose, so they need adjusting.
We do not want a mayor of Yorkshire because, for us that is the wrong system. This is not a city; it is a county of 5 million people, so there needs to be some kind of parliamentary system. We don’t want one person elected to make all the decisions.
JR: Should there be a President of Yorkshire instead then? Geoffrey Boycott perhaps?
RC: (laughing) Some have said Sean Bean as he’s on the telly and people may gravitate towards him because they know who he is.
JR: How far do you want to go with devolution for Yorkshire? Do you want complete independence from London?
RC: We want regional government – not independence. I think you should view this the other way round. What is it we want the national parliament to do and what do we want the regions to do?
Three things, defence, foreign policy and macroeconomic policy, there is little else that national government should do. Everything else should not be the responsibility of the UK government because to me their role is to focus on the country’s place in the world and that’s it! They should justify why they should keep things like education, economic development, culture and tourism, because, for me,it’s up to the people in their regions to look at those. So to me it is the other way round. If things have to be decided for England as a whole the regions should come together and vote.
JR: So the national government would keep some institutions like the British Army etc?
RC: Absolutely! Then if things need to be decided for the country as a whole and you’ve got eight regions let’s say in England, they send representatives from each devolved parliament to vote. What we don’t want are second class MPs and that’s what will happen with some of the suggestions that are coming out. The UK parliament should remain the UK parliament.
In the current system, London has devolved powers around transport. Does that mean London MPs should not vote on transport in Yorkshire, of course they shouldn’t. Why should London MPs vote on transport issues in Yorkshire? If you had regional governments none of that would matter because MPs are elected to the country’s parliament but all they would be looking at in my view are foreign policy, defence and macro-economic policy.
If you say Scots shouldn’t be able to vote on this and the Welsh should be able to vote on that then what they are really trying to do is break up Britain. We are the complete opposite.
“We want to build a stronger Yorkshire within a strong United Kingdom.”
This cannot have second class MPs.
So then that begs the question why do you need 650 of them? There should be significantly fewer MPs. People jump in and ask what powers we want but to me that is the wrong argument. We have to start from the basics, who is to decide Yorkshire’s priorities? Is it a government based in London where all MPs support a position which may be against the interests of their electors? That for us is unacceptable so what we will do is making sure we put Yorkshire first not the party and as long as people are judging issues on the impact for Yorkshire, then I’ll be very happy.
JR: In a devolved Yorkshire Parliament would Yorkshire MPs be able to vote on issues affecting areas outside the county’s boundaries?
Yes! Because there will be elected MPs going to the national UK parliament and so they would be able to vote on all national issues, but they would not be able to vote on regional issues in let’s say in Cornwall or Wessex for example, because that would be a devolved responsibility there. Why should Yorkshire vote on Wessex issues? They shouldn’t.
JR: So all around the country there would be regional parliaments all voting on their own issues then?
RC: We would love that to be the case, but we are realists; we are fighting for the interests of Yorkshire. If in Lancashire, let’s say nobody comes forward to take on that role that’s their issue, but we are not going to go over there and convince them of the need for their own regional parliament. I actually think that is the right solution but we can only fight our corner; we can only fight for Yorkshire. This does not have to be the same in every part of England either. For us the example is Scotland’s got it Wales has got it, London’s got it we want some of that.
“We want first rate devolution and Yorkshire people know their needs and priorities better than those in London.”
JR: On your website it clearly states that Yorkshire First aims to put the region before party politics. Isn’t this a bit too idealistic?
RC: No, absolutely not! What unites us as a party is a belief in an elected Yorkshire assembly with the powers to act. What also unite us are the Bell principles, which is a code of conduct as to how our elected representatives should behave. We also think that people are bright and independent minded in Yorkshire. If I came in and told people, “Right OK, I’ve decided the policy and you’re going to tell everybody else that we all agree,” it would be wrong. That to me is old –fashioned, out-dated and cannot work. So what our party says is, we are united by powers for Yorkshire and united by how we conduct ourselves. We will never ever tell any of them how to vote on issues, never! We can’t do that and we think everybody has their own opinion and if they have a look at the facts in front of them they should ask themselves two questions. Firstly, does it work? Secondly, is it in the interest for the people, the environment and economy of the region? So if they are judging them on those terms, then that is fine by me. I am happy to disagree with someone else when we are both looking at the same thing, that’s life! We want grown up politics, where we say if you disagree with me, well say you disagree with me. What unites us I believe is that Yorkshire has to have the powers.
JR: It was well documented that in the European Elections the BBC prevented Yorkshire First from screening a Party Political Broadcast, while Plaid Cymru and the SNP were allowed to show theirs. What are your thoughts?
RC: We have given our thoughts in a letter of complaint to the appropriate authorities and received a response in writing telling us that we had to stand in every region of England in order to qualify for a party election broadcast. The authorities realised they have made a cock up but this was already done before the election. They knew Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already had their own nationalist parties but there were none in England.They split it into the four nations, but when we came along saying we were only representing one part of England it put them into a bit of a fluster. It said in the email “you need to fight in Lancashire, Cornwall and London etc in order to get a Party election broadcast,” which is stupid because there is no way that people in those places are ever going to be interested in voting for us.
For a laugh we were going to have an aeroplane fly over Old Trafford saying “Vote Yorkshire First” to make a point and demonstrate the absurdity of Yorkshire First standing in Lancashire. I was very angry at the time. We will see what the new rules are going to be but they did admit to us that it was an issue which needed addressing.
That could be a positive outcome then?
Well yes in one way. The political system is stacked against new parties. We were offered 2.2million free stamps, because when you stand in the European elections you get a free letter to every household in the area, which sounds marvellous but it would have cost us £40,000 in printing costs. There were ten parties, that makes it 10x £40,000 and 10x 2.5m stamps. This is the modern world and people use computers now. Why couldn’t they send all the information about the ten parties with the option to download a leaflet if they wished? This system is designed to block out new parties and stacked in favour of the four major existing ones, The Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP.
UKIP have taken the mantle of the protest vote since the Liberal Democrats went into government, but they are a reaction to people’s anger towards politicians. We think Yorkshire First are more positive than that because what we are actually saying is, we understand the anger, but by just being against everything is not the right thing to do. You cannot pull up the drawbridge and pretend everywhere else does not exist. We have a 300-year opportunity to build a better United Kingdom. What we say is:
“Wherever Yorkshire has a potential voice in the world we should be banging the drum for it and that means in Europe, in the UK and anywhere we can use that voice.”
Look at how well Welcome to Yorkshire did. That demonstrates Yorkshire pulling together in one direction can win and I genuinely believe that if Yorkshire had the powers you watch us I believe we’d be doing a lot better than Scotland.
JR: You live in Norway and work in Germany. How do their political systems compare to the UK model and what can we learn?
RC: If I hadn’t moved to Norway then I would not be sat here chatting to you now. It wasn’t until I moved abroad that I felt more Yorkshire and it gave me a chance to step outside of it and look back and think, ‘I now live in one of the richest countries in the world where the country is judged on how everybody in the society is doing.’ In Norway they did not privatise oil profits, unlike Britain and they built up what is known as the Norwegian Oil fund. They are now the biggest investors in the world and own 1.5% of all shares around the globe. Their view was, ‘this is our oil and the proceeds have to benefit all of our people.’ They have a cross party agreement that they will not spend more than 3% of the profits each year from the oil fund. In the capital, they have the Oslo Pack, which is a scheme that decides how they are going to develop the city, from planning to housing and transport etc.They plan their transport 10-25 years in advanceas well. Have you ever heard of this in the UK? They plan and agree what they are going to do and then argue how they are going to get there. In this country one party is elected one year, has a five year plan, but then another party gets in power and completely changes everything. It’s constant change with no overall benefit.
Germany, have a Lander system (state parliaments). One of the downsides of allowing too many regions to do things is they don’t always match up with, for example, holiday times so you can find some people living in one area working in another where they are on holiday, but they live over the border. These are small issues but the beautiful thing is they adjust and have their own rules for their own requirements. If you try and go on holiday during the school breaks in this country it’s very expensive. Why does everyone need to go on holiday at once? Why can’t they be spread out in a different ways? I accept there are downsides of allowing too many different influences but these can be ironed out.
Norway, Scotland and Yorkshire have roughly the same populations of 5million yet in comparison we are almost 3rd world. Three of the ten poorest areas in Northern Europe are in Yorkshire, which means that something has been messed up in doing what’s right for our area.
Scotland, with their devolved powers now has the power to act. In Brussels there’s an office for Scotland and if you want to do business there that is where you go. Where do you go if you want to do business in Yorkshire? London! You don’t go to Brussels, Leeds or Sheffield, but London. This is because there is nobody to speak for Yorkshire.
JR: So not even the elected Euro MPs for the Yorkshire and the Humber region?
Well they could do, but let’s have a look at what happened one year ago. The UK government took around £150m that was eligible for Yorkshire and gave it to Scotland because that is how our system is set up. In every other part of Europe, if a region is eligible for money it is given to them. In this country the government say “hang on a minute Mr EU, you give us the money and we will decide how we want to spend it.” When I say nine out of ten poorest areas in Northern Europe are in the UK it tells you that monies which should have been used to build our regions have been spent unwisely or back pocketed by our government and not spent to help us.
JR: Do you believe that Yorkshire would have benefitted from a “Yes” vote for Scottish independence and if so how?
RC: When the referendum was first announced my first reaction was that Scotland should vote “Yes.” However as the campaign went on I changed my opinion for two reasons. Firstly, I’m in Yorkshire I’m not in Scotland. If I was Scottish I might vote yes, because I would think, “We can change this now.” From a Yorkshire point of view it is better for us to have a counter-balance and friends in the north to fight against the dominance of the South. Scotland is going to get more power, London will keep theirs and we are going to be caught in no man’s land and suffer as a result. I fear for the future.
“We have the greatest region in the world in my opinion but we just don’t have the powers to capitalise on that.”
Look at The Grand Depart, it was brilliant, perfect, beamed all over the world, got a lot of people in the heart. It was an important staging post and that was down to people working together with Welcome to Yorkshire and is one of the few times thatthe county speaks with one voice. The only other time is the European election, which is why we chose to stand in them, because the whole 5million people can vote as one.
In the Euro Elections we got 19,000 votes. Someone sent me an email two days after and said. “You do realise that in your first election, after just seven weeks of existence,you got more votes than the SNP, Plaid, the Greens and UKIP in their first elections.” We spent £604.36 on the EU elections plus the £5,000 deposit which I knew I was throwing away. I was gutted however that Yorkshire First only got 1.5% of the vote because we needed 2.5% to get my money back, but the amount of people who were impressed with what we did was good. Those 19,000 people gave Yorkshire First life and that was the beautiful thing about it.
JR: The Scottish people said no to full independence and in 2004 the people of the North East overwhelmingly rejected greater powers in their region. What makes you think the people of Yorkshire would say “Yes” to a Yorkshire parliament?
RC: Firstly in the North East they did not reject a regional parliament, they rejected a glorified County Council and if there are no powers then there is no point. Secondly as formal research suggested they said we do not want another tier of politicians. We recommend powers in Yorkshire to be the same as what they have in Scotland. These are real powers. We also think you do not need to see this as another tier of government but replacing the one that already exists.
If the national government is only doing nationally important things, then you do not need 650 MPs. Why can’t you do it with half this number? Scotland runs its parliament with less than 150 SMPs.
Another point is during the council elections people vote against the government of the day in protest at national issues. They take it out on the Councillors. It doesn’t matter whether the council are doing a good job or a bad job it’s just a national swing against them. Well that is absolutely wrong and you are kicking the wrong people for the wrong things.
JR: Yes often the party in power does not tend to do well in local elections and devolved parliaments would get rid of that.
RC: Exactly! If we had a Yorkshire parliament here a new culture would spring up. Rather than people leaving Yorkshire to go somewhere else theywould think, ‘Hang on I can do things here.’ It’s like in Scotland the quality of parliamentarians and politicians up there have improved dramatically now they have their own Parliament. Theyhave the same number of people as us, we could have that too.
You would also start getting newspapers beginning to cover the regions correctly, rather than one small section of The Guardian called “The Northerner,” which gets updated once every two weeks. It makes you think, who are they running this country for? Well it’s not for us!
JR: Should Britain be in or out of the E.U?
RC: If Yorkshire has the opportunity for a voice we should be there banging a drum wherever possible. Who is making the rules if we are not in the EU? If I’m in a club it makes complete sense for me to have a say in what the rules are. Whereas what I can’t do is stand on the outside and say, “you make the rules and if I don’t like them I’m not going to stand by them and then they’ll say well no problem, but you are not going to sell any of your goods here unless you apply our regulations.”
That’s what happens to Norway but she only has a population of 5m people.
JR: Norway has done rather well by not being in the EU though.
RC: Yes, but that’s got nothing to do with them not being in the EU but everything to do with a small population and a massive oil reserve. More importantly it’s how they use that wealth and they’ve used it to the benefit of every person in that country. What happened under Thatcher was Britain privatised the wealth. Where did all that wealth go? It certainly did not go into a sovereign welfare fund which was there for the long term future of the country. We privatised it because we don’t do what’s right for this country and are more interested in throwing money at big business. That’s how it seems to us.
JR: Should the HS2 scheme go ahead in Yorkshire?
RC: I think it demonstrates everything that is wrong about this country. If I was given the money for HS2 I would start it in Yorkshire and if we had enough money, extend it down to London not the other way round.
You only have to look at a map of England to see how the veins spread out from London and those veins are supposed to give life to the regions but our system has been designed differently. Wealth! Vitality! Talent, sucked out of the regions. So from our point of view HS2 would take 10-15 minutes off travelling to London from Leeds, which currently takes 1 hour 50 minutes.
I was on a train this morning from Sheffield to Huddersfield it took one hour twenty one minutes. Its only twenty miles! Why spend £40bn to get from Leeds to London twenty minutes quicker! There are more important things and if someone gave me £40bn I am sure we could come up with a better solution that will benefit us now because we will only get HS2 if they don’t run out of money building the line to Manchester, which is getting everything at the moment. We are probably not even going to have the new railway lines until I’m nearly Seventy and you’ll be nearly retired! The point is this has nothing to do with the North. If it had something to do with the North you would start building it here and you’d link Leeds to Birmingham and then to Manchester and have another line up to Newcastle. It’s got nothing to do with benefitting Yorkshire and everything to do with extracting talent wealth and vitality out of our region and sucking it into London. It is not needed! I’m not saying London is not important but it can’t succeed by killing the regions. That is not on! When Inner London is the wealthiest in Northern Europe and surrounded by nine out of ten of the poorest areas something is not right.
Another reason why it’s wrong is because there’s a few crumbs fallen off the Parliamentary table and northern politicians are falling over themselves for them. Instead they should be marching down to London and saying Hey! This is what we need for Yorkshire! This is what we need now! They shouldn’t be waiting for someone to come out of a dark room and saying “Here’s the answer” do you want it? And everyone looking at it and saying, “That looks bit rubbish we don’t want it!” We are not going to get it for 20 years and if it is about the regions why is it starting in London?
JR: Another issue with HS2 is that people from Wakefield for example who currently have a direct link to London will have to catch a train to Leeds in order to go to the capital instead.
RC: This demonstrates they have no plan. There is no plan for Yorkshire.
JR: Is fracking a viable way of reducing energy costs?
RC: In the UK 18% of all energy comes from Yorkshire which means we are good at it! And if you are good at something what should you do? You should capitalise on it! You should make it work more.
Ultimately where does this lead us? I talked about the oil fund well there’s fracking, wind power and wave power, Why can’t we have it if they are drilling under all our houses. Legally, apparently you own what is below your house. Who is going to get those profits? What this government will do in my opinion is they will do the same as always and privatise them. What they should do is say “You are going under our country a percentage of that has to be put into a fund for the future.
It’s a savings fund for our people!
JR: Like the Norwegian model with oil
RC: Yes exactly.
If we are so good at producing energy then what we should be doing, you could say, is build fracking into a thorough energy policy because if we are supplying so much energy then that’s a strength!
We can’t say no to everything but we have to make sure we do it in a controlled manner and that our people are benefitting. It’s not about people being bribed because something’s gone underneath. You can’t go under one house. However, there has to be some means of society as a whole benefitting from it. What is more, with fracking we will not get into a bidding war but we are not going to say we are against it and in favour of wind, that’s not how we are going to do it. It’s about getting a spread and a good overall energy policy.
JR: Should some of the coal mines be re-opened in Yorkshire?
RC: Without a doubt! But you have to look at this in its entirety. We can’t have a ticklist of the energy we want and the energy we don’t want. We have to use whatever is there for the benefit of Yorkshire. We have to stay at the forefront of some of these things. It should be tested in a controlled manner but preferably not by private companies. I don’t like all these little licenses being given to all and sundry and there has to be an element of trust involved that it is done for the democratic voice of the people because these are the ones who are going to be here. These companies could go bust any time.
We don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t think we need to rush into it now. Fracking is relatively new and so let’s hang back a bit and look at the bigger picture. How should it be controlled?
Siemens have just opened a place in the East Riding. If they are putting all this investment into wind farms and engineering, are they going to import people or are they going to train our people? Instead of saying let’s ban foreigners, we say, lets up-skill our people. Wakefield council for example can’t address the needs of a major industry that’s all over Yorkshire it has to be done at a bigger level than that which means there has to be a regional parliament. The people preventing all this happening are the smaller councils. These are the forces of inertia; they are the ones who have failed for 40 years. We need to do things differently.
JR: Was the success of Le Grand Depart’ a sign that Yorkshire is ready for devolution and a greater voice in the world?
RC: No I think they are two different things. It demonstrated to people that we are the best region in the world. I love this place and I am sure many people from Yorkshire do. It demonstrated to me there was the passion there but no-one has ever really politicised it and said, hang on Yorkshire needs more powers.
We are the first ones who have come along to try and do that. We will try to do it in a positive manner, outward looking and we will never jump into the gutter to try and win votes. You won’t see us bashing immigrants. Anyone who lives in Yorkshire has chosen to be here. I know many Southerners who came here and never went back. Stewart Arnold, my deputy was born in Charlton, London. Paul Salveson the person who has just defected from Labour is from Bolton! He’s a Lancastrian! But that’s fine; this is not about race or ethnicity. If they have chosen to live here, make Yorkshire their home and are loyal to the ridings then they are as much a Yorkshire man or woman than those who have lived here for generations.
JR: Indeed a Yorkshire Parliament would be for people who live in Yorkshire.
RC: Look at the party North of the border. The Yes campaigners were called the Scottish Nationalist party but don’t equate nationalism with them. They are proud and patriotic people. Those who are nationalistic tend to hate others. People who are patriotic have pride in their own area, but that doesn’t mean they hate others.
Unfortunately you are going to get people who hate people because of where they are from, but I don’t believe that is a Yorkshire trait. I think independent – mindedness, saying it as you see it, calling a spade a spade and being outward looking are. If you look back at Yorkshire’s history, the boundaries were set up by the Vikings, who were immigrants. We were also very successful 600 years before that in the Roman Empire and of course an importantpart of the British Empire. The county has always done well when we are outward looking and connected to the world. So that for us is a very positive thing about Yorkshire people and we will build on these traits.
JR: Do you have plans to put up candidates for the 2015 General Election?
RC: Yes, but we can’t give any details yet. We are going to announce our first one soon. Our aim will be to put up good candidates wherever we can. We will not be spending a fortune, because we have no funders.
We are absolutely desperate to hear from people who share our views of Yorkshire to come forward and be candidates. The Yorkshire pledge incidentally is a way of demonstrating their support for a Yorkshire Parliament and we’ve had about 100 per week signing up to it. About one in four of these want to be more involved either by becoming a candidate or door-knocking and delivering leaflets.That’s a lot of people. We know the passion isthere.
We want a Yorkshire Parliament after that we’ll see what happens. If the party are not careful we will focus on building an organisation rather than getting the answer, which is a Yorkshire Parliament because then it is up to people in the county to vote and the elected representatives will do what they feel is right. I hope by that stage we will have enough strong people involved to take this party forward and I can go back to sitting in the pub complaining and enjoying a nice pint!
JR: And finally: What is your favourite Yorkshire landmark?
RC: West Nab!
RC: West Nab is as you come over from Saddleworth, turn off towards Holmfirth. As you drop down towards Meltham, West Nab is on your left, virtually the most northern part of the Peak District. There is a phenomenal view where you can see halfway across Yorkshire including all three power stations, Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggborough. After that one I love the view of Castle Hill in Huddersfield and Emley Moor, the tallest structure in the UK. I think that’s quite impressive. I also like Brimham Rocks but we’ve got so many. I go every New Years day to the top of West Nab first thing and I look over Yorkshire. I don’t know why but it is always clear on that day.
JR: And who knows Richard Carter you may go up there one day and see a Yorkshire Parliament on the horizon
RC: Well it would be great to see that! But I am not sure we need a Parliament building and if it’s in York I’m sure there’ll be somewhere we can go. If we get rid of over 1,000 councillors in Yorkshire there’s going to be a lot of empty town halls around. Technology is amazing these days. Why do people have to go together to meet. You can have online meetings; there are so many things they could do differently. How do you involve people in these things? There are so many big questions there and we want to keep things nice and simple. A Yorkshire Parliament here,with Yorkshire people deciding their own future and that for us is the right thing to do.
JR: Richard Carter, thank you very much
RC: Thank you.
Here are some questions sent in by our users that we put to Richard.
Richard Carter Q&A
Would they support a party which wanted to make London an independent state within the union, with its own government and policies? (Adrian Thompson)
No. A Yorkshire Parliament, Yes, Independence No. Why is it, when London wants powers, no one calls them splitters? They have devolution. As do Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is about Yorkshire having the powers to act – as a region. We have 20 councils in Yorkshire, but no joined up thinking. No planning of our strategic needs, no action on what we decide needs acting upon. The government decides. The UK is the most centralised state in Europe. Too much is decided there. Take Transport spending, which is £2500 per head in London but only £5 pounds in the North East.
According to their website, they’ll act as a group of independents with no party whip and no party line. Personal conscience will trump party policy. In what sense, then, are they a political party at all? (Adrian Thompson)
I know nothing about the Yorkshire First Party. A summary of their policies would be good… Health, Education, NHS, Defence, Foreign Policy, Home Rule for Yorkshire etc (Steve Hunt)
How are you different from the other parties? What benefits will Yorkshire get from you? (Clive Lorimer)
What is the point of the party – are you looking for independence from England? (Jane Wray)
Tell us, briefly, what you’re about. What do you stand for? (Kathryn Overfield)
Why did you call it Yorkshire First? Why should we in Yorkshire be first over everybody else in our country? I’m not sure what your political stand point could be! (Louise Lewis)
What unites us is a belief that Yorkshire needs more powers – similar to Wales or Scotland as a model. We have a larger population than Scotland, and an economy twice the size of Wales, but with the powers of neither.
Defence and Foreign policy would of course be the responsibility of the UK government. We do not want independence, and find it amusing that whenever someone from Yorkshire suggests more powers we are accused of being splitters. We will keep repeating… powers yes, independence no.
We will act as ‘Independents’, or neutrals on the left/right spectrum. We think many issues facing our region, and indeed the country, are not conducive to 5 year elections. How do you address the regions transport, or skills needs? How do you align our strengths as a region to ensure we invest sensibly in a joined up way?
Some parties have a shopping list of policies. If you want that we suggest you stick to the others. We will not play that short term game.
With Yorkshire First we will draw attention to the longer term issues we have. Three areas/themes are Energy, Transport and Skills. All areas that we have particular strengths in or known issues. The questioner seems surprised that we do not fit their old definition of a party, with a need for a shopping list of policies. We would turn the question around. What are the so called grown up parties doing in these areas? We are 8 weeks old. They are not… They are part of the problem – not the solution.
Martin Bell was elected as an ‘Independent’ MP, and helped to develop a code of conduct for elected representatives; how they should work, operate, and arrive at decisions. Yorkshire First has incorporated the Bell principles into our constitution. It is the only ‘party’ to do so. We have no party whip – and will not. We will judge issues transparently and on the basis of are they good for the regions folk, environment and economy.
I know nothing of this party, but I’m very keen on regional issues….tell me about yourself, what your main policies are, and how you intend to achieve your aims. And ultimately, in less than a dozen words (i.e., no political spin or bull), what is the main aim of Yorkshire First? (Steve Speight)
I think I have answered some of the points raised in your question in my previous answers. We hope to influence all parties to support more powers for our region. To do this we have to hurt them in the ballot box. That is the only language they seem to understand.
We want a ‘Conversation for Yorkshire’ to agree exactly what powers we should have, how to involve people as citizens, not just consumers of services. Should we re-organise local authorities etc…
No spin or bull! We have a larger population than Scotland or Wales, but with the powers of neither. It’s time for Yorkshire. Pheww! 17 words!
As a very diverse county, how would you address the urban and country issues whilst maintaining the need for both? (Peter Mitchell)
Great question and one that exercised the minds of the Scots and Welsh that had similar, if not greater issues in this respect. In Scotland a ‘constitutional convention’ sought to gain as wide an agreement as possible before any vote on devolution. We support a ‘Conversation for Yorkshire’ to address this and the many other issues that would need to be resolved. (Interestingly, the SNP and the Tories were the only two parties that did not take part – How times have changed!)
Cities and ‘city regions’ cannot and should not exist in isolation. Yorkshire is vibrant, diverse and a great mix between town and country. We should seek to balance the needs of both. More powers to affect our own affairs and challenges will benefit both town and country.
It’s time someone at ‘Yorkshire first’ got a grasp of reality and I’m from Yorkshire. Divided we fall – and that includes Scotland. (Anne Hamlett)
I’m not certain what you are suggesting here. Forgive me if I misunderstood your question. The current situation in the UK is causing division, pitting one part of the UK against another. London has devolution. (Splitters!) We simply want more powers to act and to allow Yorkshire to play its full part in the United Kingdom.
How would you structure an agricultural policy for Yorkshire? (Graham Braithwaite)
We find it amazing that the only thing that prevented agreement on the new EU Common Agricultural Policy was the UK government insisting on no maximum benefit cap for farmers. The rest of the EU wanted a maximum subsidy of 500,000 pounds. Our government refused to allow it through without removing that cap. Interesting how large farmers do not need a benefit cap, but the poor do? We believe the EU should push decision- making down to the regions. Unfortunately, the UK government keeps this power. We think it should be the region that decides.
How can a Yorkshire Fist party be taken seriously on national issues (Dominic Doran)
I imagine we will never be taken seriously if we called ourselves that! Freudian slip?
Only time will tell. We believe local and regional first, national and European where beneficial or advantageous. That will be our focus.
Should Yorkshire pudding get regional food protection status from the EU? (Colin Brown)
No. But we do have many examples of locally produced and manufactured products that could/should apply for special status under the various categories from the EU.
What do we do with all the Mancs? (Ian Kell)
Great question! If you look at the Yorkshire Pledge it is very clear. All who are born here, or reside here, are Yorkshire folk… Whether they like it or not! If they have chosen Yorkshire they must be ok!
Is it the historical county boundaries you are proposing devolution for? (Chris Stone)
History is about the past, affects your identity, how you feel and your outlook on life. But we have to focus on the future. We think that all the ‘lost areas’ should be left to decide for themselves. We do however think that if we had the powers for our region, they would decide to join the administrative area.
The area that operates as the Yorkshire & Humber region would be our starting point as it is currently used for various purposes. However, we recognize that the people of North & North East Lincolnshire may not want to join. That should be their choice. The historic boundaries of Yorkshire are still there and people from those areas not covered by Yorkshire administrations are still from Yorkshire. The local authority in itself is therefore not relevant to feeling of pride in the county
To what level will legislature be controlled in Yorkshire in respect of tax, law and other statutes? Specifics please (Ross Moore)
We support a Conversation for Yorkshire to look at the specifics. The starting point should be the Scots or Welsh models. The Welsh will have tax varying powers, the Scots already have it. The precise powers would be by negotiation. We do not have all the answers. But then who does!
Can we be a part of Scotland? Please. (Si Denbigh)
Why? But we would have no problem with them joining Greater Yorkshire.
What is your position on the Thoresby colliery situation, knowing that it supports many Yorkshire coal workers? (I’m aware it’s classed as Notts but many of our folk have been forced to work there through lack of coaling in Yorks) (Louise Kennedy)
And why is the government paying to import coal from overseas when we have an abundance of it in Yorkshire? (Louise Kennedy)
Short term madness from the UK government, which seems to have a pathological hatred of strategy when it comes to energy.
Our region provides 20% of UK energy, and it is a key Yorkshire strength that is not being played to. Energy should be a key building block for our region moving forward, with a clear strategy to ensure all sources of energy are not reliant on foreign supplies.
Wind, fracking, renewables, and coal need a clear 20-30 year plan. This would be a key area for a Yorkshire parliament to focus on.
The consensus of political journalists after the recent elections is that there is a shift of opinion in the country away from the 3 main parties – how would Yorkshire First (I agree with TJ Alexander that the name has unpleasant connotations) use this ‘new political era’ to their advantage & do they truly believe their beliefs are credible & up to county / countrywide scrutiny? (Jen McGahey)
Does the name not risk confusion with the fascists in Britain First? (TJ Alexander)
Yes it does cause confusion. That cannot be helped other than us being clear. We think they are poisonous and backward looking and oppose them in every way possible.
Interestingly we got more votes than the neo nazi’s (Who stood in several parts of the UK) and we stood only in Yorkshire.
We are proud of our heritage, and if you take a look at the Yorkshire Pledge it is very clear who we are and what we represent. We are proud, outward looking, and want to build a region that works for us – all of us. Yorkshire was founded by immigrants and has been most successful when playing a full part in something bigger. Examples are, Constantine (Roman Emperor), the Vikings, who set up what we think of as our historic borders), and of course the British Empire, and industrialisation.
Why Yorkshire First? Everyone I seemed to speak to explained that they were Yorkshire first (Then British, or English etc) We felt it also said what we wanted, to put Yorkshire first. We have had 50 years of London sucking the life out of the regions, and powers being taken from the region. That has to change – for the good of our United Kingdom.
We got 1.5% of the vote in the EU elections. Pretty crap? Well it was more than the SNP, Plaid, Greens and UKIP got in their first elections. We also did it with no money… and in 7 weeks.
We are here to stay. 19017 people have breathed life into Yorkshire First. We fought an uphill struggle to get in the media and on the whole were pretty pleased with the result.
Credible? Look at our site, feel free to make contact, and above all get involved in some small way…
– Richard Carter
If you would like to know more please check Yorkshire First out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yorkshirefirst
Thank you for reading. Please your your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. We shall get richard back to answer any more questions.