Monday 25 September 2017

Britain's smallest parties: Meet the Yorkshire Party

Here’s what you need to know.

By Taylor Heyman

A party with a regional focus is hoping to stand up for Yorkshire on June 8.

We spoke to Stewart Arnold, leader of the Yorkshire Party, about the party’s progress and policies.

What does the Yorkshire Party stand for?

The party argues that with a population the size of Scotland, the people of Yorkshire need to be given more representation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they support a devolved government for the region.

This would involve establishing a Yorkshire Parliament, cutting district and county councillors by 50% and giving more power to Town and Parish councils. The party estimates this could save £14 million over the next four years.

Manifesto pledges include giving Yorkshire an equal share of UK funding for education and infrastructure projects, investing in green technology projects and free WiFi in all urban areas in Yorkshire.

When was the party set up and where is it standing?

The party fielded its first candidate under the moniker of Yorkshire First (since changed to the Yorkshire Party) in the European elections of 2014. The party won 19,017 votes from the region of Yorkshire and Humber, which Arnold says “was enough for us to say, ‘well there’s some interest there, maybe there is an idea’.

“Subsequently we got a lot of support in emails and phone calls with people saying, ‘we didn’t know about you until the last few days of the campaign’ and ‘keep it going’, so that’s what we did.”

The party is fielding 21 candidates on June 8, seven more than in 2015. It’s a representative group with an average age of 35 and 20% LGBT candidates.

Arnold sees the election as an opportunity to get the Yorkshire Party’s message out to the public. “I think general elections focus people’s minds on politics and on political parties and get them thinking about who they might support, so it’s inevitable that we would get a boost in that way.”

What are their chances?

Recent electoral results would say it’s looking good for the Yorkshire Party.

Arnold said: “The most recent elections in Doncaster a few weeks ago were very encouraging for us. We got 33% in one ward and we got an average of about 25% in the four other wards as well.”

Arnold said these results “show that there’s no reason to think that there’s a ceiling to what we can achieve”.

How would the party like to see British democracy change?

Arnold thinks the regional party model is one that could translate to other areas of the UK.

He compares the Yorkshire Party to Plaid Cymru, the SNP and Ukip, not because they have the same aims, but because of their ability to change policy of the main parties by threatening their vote.

“If you look back at the history of devolution in Wales and Scotland back in the 1960s, the SNP and Plaid Cymru started really threatening the major parties by winning seats at parliamentary by-elections and local council elections. Suddenly the main parties thought ‘we need to do something about this’.

“We’ll see what it takes to get there.”

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