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Why are Birmingham and Bristol so low down in this list.This is particular offensive to Birmingham and it’s huge conurbation. Cambridge is not a big city and should not be included at all in this list. It is a large school basically and is successful because it is near London. What other than education does Cambridge produce. Liverpool the greatest export port of the greatest empire the world has ever seen is treated like a Berkshire commuter town in this list. Manchester Liverpool Birmingham and Glasgow are the four greatest British cities outside the capital and all of them should be on equal footing .
This elegant article misses at least two points. First, with due respect to Manchester, London is in another universe compared with any other city in Europe, let alone England. Its governance system is incredibly devolved and now it’s Mayor is in the Cabinet! Even without those advantages, the per capita spend on infrastructure needed to sustain its appeal to foreign capital will continue to give it more leverage than the rest of the UK’s cities combined. A powerful, successful London is central to the new government’s self-image Of the UK as a world power and nothing will prevent it getting investment that is “off the scale” compared with anywhere else. This is not to suggest that there are not serious social issues in some parts of the capital but that is a red herring that shouldn’t disguise its extraordinary and privileged position.
London is in a league of its own and Manchester is at the head of the following pack, as distant from London as, say, Tranmere Rovers is from Chelsea FC.
The second point is that compared to the powers enjoyed by local government before it was diluted by the postwar Attlee government and then eviscerated by Mrs Thatcher, devo-Manc (welcome as it is) is no more than a grudging and partial repatriation of powers that our forefathers in the great cities took for granted. Do we suppose that Joseph Chamberlain in Birmingham, Herbert Morrison in London or even Bessie and Jack Braddock in Liverpool relied on central largesse to build their cities?
Instead of each city currying favour with the Chancellor to secure a bit more cash and autonomy than its neighbours, the city leaders and MPs outside London should work together to reinvent local democracy and promote alternatives to the command-and-control delivery of services from the centre. I am not suggesting that well-run cities like Manchester shouldn’t be rewarded but those benefits should be a function of competitively stronger economies generating greater resources than in less enlightened places and the freedom to tax and spend to meet local needs. Playing the league tables game just reinforces the assumed right of central government to set priorities unchallenged and uninformed by the reality of life in our cities.