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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Yorkshire: Land of the 'begging bowl'
Peter Sallis in Last of the Summer Wine
'Yorkshire's past has been repackaged in museums'
Yorkshire is suffering such economic decline that the "begging bowl" has become a way of life for councils and businesses, according to a Labour MP.

Austin Mitchell, MP for Great Grimsby, says the county's distinctive character is disappearing and it has become the southern frontier of a dependent North.

Our people, once well-paid producers, are now poor consumers.

Austin Mitchell
Labour MP
Writing in the Spring issue of the Yorkshire Journal, he says Yorkshire needs regional government to regain its place in the national pecking order.

His comments follow a recent speech from former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, who said he was a recent convert to regional devolution.

'Scarred county'

Mr Mitchell says that Yorkshire has declined from a "near nation in its own right" to a "heritage county, scarred by closed plants, landscaped slag heaps and empty mills."

He continues: "Our people, once well-paid producers, are now poor consumers.

"The begging bowl has become a way of life as councils and industries look to London, Brussels or the Lottery for regional support, employment, strategies, aid, grants and the never-ending 'studies' and 'action areas'.

Austin Mitchell
Mitchell: Yorkshire now less distinctive
"Having ceased to generate wealth, we have become the southern frontier of a dependent North."

Yorkshire and Humberside's unique culture came from a "rugged self-sufficiency born of the Industrial Revolution", says Mr Mitchell.

That culture was strengthened by literary and artistic prominence in the Sixties through such writers as Keith Waterhouse, John Braine and Stan Barstow.

With the mines and factories closed, says the MP, Yorkshire's past has been repackaged in museums and theme parks.

Gagged by government

The final nail in the coffin has been "once-proud conurbations bound, gagged and handcuffed by central government".

He says the backlash is now being felt in pressure for devolution and regional government.

Mr Mitchell is urging ministers to press ahead with devolution for the English regions.

He has argued that the northern regions are the right place to start regional government.

That would provide the prospect of "an empowered region with an elected government promoting the same flowering and revival as Scotland enjoys".

"The decline was economic, the revenge political," he adds.

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08 Mar 01 | Education
Students search for real Yorkshire
30 Mar 01 | UK Politics
North-south split persists: Mandelson
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