Analysis: Why Boris Johnson may have given the game away over Yorkshire devolution

It would likely have gone unnoticed on a night where much of the focus was on the prospects of a no-deal Brexit and relations with Donald Trump.

But at the Tory leadership hustings at the Barbican in York earlier this month, Boris Johnson may have inadvertently given the game away over the Government's refusal to support Yorkshire devolution.

Asked about the region's failure to join the rest of northern England in agreeing the transfer of powers and funding from Whitehall, the then-aspiring Prime Minister told the audience: "I know people might not necessarily want a mayor of Yorkshire because there is a risk that it might not be a Conservative mayor and that would not be a good thing."

This might seem an obvious point in a region where the majority of the town halls and MPs are Labour-affiliated, but it's one usually only made in private, rather than in an open forum, by Yorkshire Conservatives.

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Boris Johnson speaks at the Tory leadership hustings in York earlier this month

Boris Johnson speaks at the Tory leadership hustings in York earlier this month

And it's somewhat at odds with the official government stance, expressed by the now ex-Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, that a mayoral authority representing such a big and diverse area as Yorkshire does not meet the criteria for a devolution deal.

Today's effort by Yorkshire leaders to forge a compromise with Ministers after years of deadlock may not ultimately end up with the One Yorkshire mayor that political leaders say would deliver economic benefits worth £30bn a year.

But after a weekend where Mr Johnson parked his tanks firmly in Labour's northern heartlands with a possible General Election looming, it may represent a win-win opportunity both for him and the region's politicans.

Agreeing to interim deals for the Leeds City Region, North Yorkshire and the Humber sub-regions would give the PM a chance to boost his Northern Powerhouse credentials after a period of inertia for George Osborne's pet project. And for local leaders it would be an opportunity to have greater control over their own affairs amid the uncertainty of Brexit.

A journalist-turned-politician with an eye for a headline-grabbing announcement, Mr Johnson will likely be aware of the PR potential for making positive noises about this plan ahead of Yorkshire Day on Thursday.

And what better way to celebrate all that is great about the Broad Acres than to move forward with a deal that makes the very most of its assets and cements its future in a post-Brexit world?