Dear Reader: Was it worth meeting Govt minister? + brilliant Harrogate public

Harrogate announcement - Transport Secretary Chris Grayling with Jeremy Ridyard, managing director and co-owner of Produmax engineering firm in Baildon near Shipley. (Picture by Graham Chalmers)
Harrogate announcement - Transport Secretary Chris Grayling with Jeremy Ridyard, managing director and co-owner of Produmax engineering firm in Baildon near Shipley. (Picture by Graham Chalmers)

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Last week for the first time ever I interviewed a senior Government minister face-to-face.

This unexpected encounter doesn’t make me a big man, by the way, or any sort of Woodward and Bernstein-type figure from the days of Watergate.

I did nothing unusual to earn the privilege, I just picked up the phone at the right time.

It’s what happens in journalism.

There was a catch. The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was going to be in Shipley and it would mean getting across there ASAP.

But the trip into West Yorkshire was worth it to sit eye-to-eye with the man charged with making road and rail better for all of us, even Harrogate.

Despite his critics, the man sitting opposite me seemed likable enough, smiling and smooth. Better than on the telly, I thought.

Until, that was, I asked him anything vaguely critical.

But he’s far from the only politician to react that way these days and I refer to all parties in this regard.

The information Mr Grayling carried from London was significant but not momentous.

The key thing I took away from the meeting with the minister was his repeated remark, unsolicited by me, about how sometimes it’s better to do small things than big ones.

All in all, I was glad simply to be there to see if what he was saying would mean something to people in Harrogate.

It’s worth saying I’d nearly arrived too late to hear his announcement of new measures to deal with traffic congestion in Yorkshire.

Traffic jams on Pool Bank caused by work to improve the road.

It’s fair to say the public response to the Harrogate Advertiser’s recent Town Centre Survey took the paper’s newsroom a little by surprise.

Fifteen wide-ranging questions about the current state of the town centre’s shops, bars, cafes wasn’t the sort of thing to dash off in two minutes in these days of shorter attention spans.

So when a total of 850 readers took the time to do just that, it confirmed what we had always assumed to be too obvious to mention – Harrogate is a very well-educated and intelligent town.

Having asked the public what they thought, we then asked local business leaders and politicians what they thought of what they thought, if you know what I mean?

All the civic and business leaders we talked to were taken a back by how many good ideas had been generated by the public in what is a crucial part of the town’s wellbeing.

There was also some surprise that ordinary residents seemed to understand what was going on as well as the experts and were often coming to the same conclusions.

But what really impressed them and, it had to be said, this newspaper is that the people of Harrogate clearly still care deeply about their town and clearly want to be involved in determining its future.

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