Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Bernstein are, quite rightly, given a significant amount of the credit for their city’s 25 year run of growth and success that has culminated in the much publicised ‘Devo Manc’ deal that has been progressed over the past eighteen months or so.
However, news this week of disquiet in Birmingham, and a bit of an internal rift within the higher echelons of the government, would seem to confirm that Manchester has another talented and influential politician driving forward their cause in the name of Chancellor George Osborne.
His latest intervention on behalf of the city that has inevitably emerged as the capital of Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse initiative has reportedly put the nose of his business minister Sajid Javid out of joint, along with the leading movers and shakers of the ‘West Midlands engine’.
The Chinese are in the UK this week and Birmingham’s leaders, headed by Javid alongside senior councillors and officials and the chair of the Greater Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnership and John Lewis boss Andy Street, had been confident that their lobbying had secured a visit from the Chinese President today.
However, the Chancellor is said to have intervened, and instead the Chinese entourage will rock up in Manchester today, visiting Manchester Town Hall and the University, before heading off to the Etihad Stadium. Both Osborne and the Prime Minister will be in attendance.
Given that Birmingham has secured investment that will see Chinese manufacturer Changan Automobile create hundreds of jobs in the region by relocating its UK operations to Birmingham Business Park; and the fact that China will build the HS2 high speed rail line, which will initially run between London and Birmingham, it is easy to see while West Midlands leaders feel aggrieved.
However, this latest episode is a further demonstration that the Northern Powerhouse agenda means more than devolution and rebalancing the UK economy to George. It’s about helping him in his ambition to be the next resident in Number ten Downing Street. And that’s good news for Manchester!