Gummer riding high for a fall on Goole

Jonathan Foster reports on a port that knows its place. Or did, until a minister struck

Goole spoke yesterday, and the ears on John Gummer must have burnt. The Secretary of State for the Environment has the inland port on his conscience and in his pending tray since a much-vaunted review of local government left it high and dry.

The Gummer map of English councils, an increasingly confused piece of cartography, abolished Humberside, where Goole had remained resentfully since a previous Tory government plucked it out of Yorkshire 21 years ago.

With a stroke of a marker pen 200 miles away in London, Humberside was broken into three new councils and Goole was coupled with Selby, the equivalent of asking Mr Gummer to share a hotel room with a woman priest.

Goole has sat on the banks of the Ouse only since 1826, when a canal made it a major port for the West Riding's woollens and coal. Its brief prosperity was the result of Tom Bartholomew's patented "Tom Puddings", canal "trains" which brought coal for easy loading on to coasters. Mr Gummer is now seen locally as something of a pudding.

There is no ecumenical feeling toward Selby, and the alienation is mutual. Selby, with its abbey and its agrarian estates, is posh; Goole, its derricks jutting out of the arable landscape like dissenting spires, is blue-collar. Selby Conservatives were particularly alarmed by the proposed map. Apart from sharing resources with 18,000 Goole riff-raff, the new council could mean a revised Westminster constituency, Goole's staunch Labour vote making life awkward for Michael Alison, Selby's erstwhile comfortable Tory MP.

Mr Gummer moved swiftly to keep Goole out of Selby - and out of anywhere else until "wide-ranging local consultations" have been completed. The Goole Times & Chronicle, a sceptical observer of Tory map-making, asked its readers where their unwanted town should go. One reader sought anschluss with Scunthorpe; lured by pensioners' bus passes, 13 per cent favoured creating a Greater Doncaster, but 73 per cent in the poll published yesterday opted for another of Mr Gummer's creations, the nascent East Riding council.

"I think people are punch drunk from it now. Only lip service has been paid to the principle of consultation," Peter Stanley, the Times editor, said. The paper is neutral, although he thinks the town should consider opting out of government altogether, like Pimlico in the Ealing comedy, or Danzig: "We could be a free port."

Goole's problems are not unique. Reorganisation of many English shires has brought ancient and modern local difficulties to light. Mr Gummer's change from North Yorkshire to North Riding will cost an estimated £1m in new signwriting, plus irritable and confused citizens wondering where their next home help is coming from.

"He's created a North and an East Riding," one Goole man complained. "Riding means one-third. So the Tories have cut Yorkshire by 33 per cent."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works