In the current age of politics, there have been many regional parties gaining traction within the United Kingdom – the most popular ones being the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. More recently, there has been an increase within the smaller regions of the UK, from Cornwall’s Mebyon Kernow to Northern England’s Northumbria Independence Party. In addition to this, there has also been a new regional party in the North of England called the Yorkshire Party, which obviously has an interest in promoting the county of Yorkshire.
First founded in 2014 under the name of ‘Yorkshire First’ by Stewart Arnold, Richard Honnoraty and Richard Carter (who was their first leader), the party describes itself as a ‘centrist party’ and is built on the principles of social democratic idealism and the promotion of Yorkshire’s interests within the UK. At the time of this article’s publication, they have 8 of the 1,139 local government representatives in Yorkshire. The party is currently led by Bob Buxton, with Tim Norman as the deputy leader.
Historically, their performance has been limited due to being a small and recently established party in political party terms. However, they have achieved some small success since their establishment:
- 2014 – in the European Parliamentary election in the Yorkshire and the Humber constituency, they took 1.5% of the vote with just over 19,000 votes.
- 2015 – in the General Election, they won 6,811 votes with an average vote share of 1.04% in their region.
- 2017 – in the snap Election, they expanded their number of candidates running and gained 20,958 votes – 2.1% of the vote share.
- 2019 – in the European Parliamentary election in the Yorkshire and the Humber constituency, they received over 50,000 votes – 4% of the voters share – and increase of 2.5% from 1.5% in 2014.
- 2019 – in the General Election, the party further increased its number of candidates to 28 and secured 29,201 votes – 2.1% of the vote share.
Goals of the Party
The Party advocates regional devolution for Yorkshire in the form of a democratically elected assembly – not dissimilar to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. They stand behind this idea and believe it is the way to create a fairer country for all people of the nations. This belief comes from one of the party’s key ideological ideas, that of subsidiarity, where matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised level of authority.
When it comes to their policies, most of their ideas on Brexit to their ideas on Healthcare, Education and the economy, it can be seen that they all have their roots derived from a centrist position:
Brexit – their stance during the 2016 Referendum was a natural one, stating that ‘the Yorkshire Party did not campaign either for or against Brexit. Instead, we left our individual members to act according to their consciences’. Their stance is to respect the will of the referendum due to Yorkshire voting heavily to leave (the leave vote in Yorkshire was well above the national average when compared to the rest of the country) and currently focusing on making sure Yorkshire’s interests are respected in the UK’s future.
Economy – their policy is that of Yorkshire’s regional economy residing firmly in its own hands. This comes in their opening argument about the growth of their local economy. I think their statement best explains the foundation for their stance:
‘The economy in Yorkshire is significantly underperforming. In 2017 our economy grew by only 1.2% – the second lowest rate of any region of the UK. Between 2018 and 2020 Yorkshire’s employment growth is expected to be almost non-existent, with recent estimates predicting a jobs growth rate of only 0.1% per year.’
Their stance, as previously stated, is outlined in their policy, believing that the best way to grow their economy is through the public and private sectors working together – especially with the former being well funded in order to grow. This suggests that they are anti-austerity and have centre-left views on economics.
Education – it could be stated that they have a desire for their education to be devolved to a Yorkshire assembly/parliament. On their website, they state that they want to depoliticise education ‘by placing policy development in the hands of practitioners through teacher-led commissions and a Yorkshire Education Challenge in order to stop education being used as a political football’. They also want to change how the data is used to measure performance to be more in line with the pupils’ achievements instead of the current system. They also want teachers to take a far more leadership-based role when it comes to the commissioning of assessments and grading, whilst also wanting to create a culture of lifelong learning instead of the current system which is seen more as an ‘early life’ of learning.
Health and social care – the party wishes to see the NHS become more decentralised and devolved to Yorkshire, much like how the NHS has devolved in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Greater Manchester – stating that it needs to change from a ‘short-term, top-down’ initiative social care system which is always chronically underfunded.
In addition to all these various policies, the party also has several ideas on energy, the environment, homelessness and transport on their website.
Overall, it can be said that this party is a centrist party with centre-left leanings (thus similar to other regional parties across Europe and the UK) with their goals correlating with the increasing regional independence movement. We could therefore be seeing a lot more of the Yorkshire Party.