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Could a northern ‘supercity’ rebalance Britain’s economy?

21 June 2014

1:43 PM

21 June 2014

1:43 PM

George Osborne is drawing up plans for a northern ‘supercity’, in the hope that it might rival London and rebalance Britain’s economy. Neil O’Brien discussed the idea of a supercity in The Spectator in December 2012, before going off to advise Osborne.

My career in politics nearly ended the day it began, when I was almost run over by a gang of Nazis in a Mini-Metro. Not a very butch car to be hit by, I know, and a rather pathetic substitute for a Panzer tank. But it was the early 1990s, and supporters of fascist government in Britain had seen their resources dwindle a bit over the decades.

I was 14, and attending my first political demonstration, an Anti-Nazi League protest against the BNP in Halifax. I became separated from the crowd. There were some hooligans from the other side screeching around in a car yelling abuse and doing handbrake turns and, as I ran down a street away from them, they drove the car up onto the pavement behind me. I thought I was about to be mown down, but at the last minute they swerved back on to the road and roared past. Several pasty-looking middle fingers were extended in my general direction.

It was an interesting introduction to the strange politics you can get in some small northern towns. You get weird politics when people don’t know where to turn — and I think that’s what’s going on up north at the moment.

David Cameron inherited lots of political baggage from the 1980s which makes it tough for the Tories to win a hearing in northern cities. The Liberal Democrats used to run in the north of England in opposition to complacent Labour councils. Now they are trying to avoid being minced for joining the coalition. And after the recession and the debt crisis Gordon Brown left behind, northerners don’t feel so enthusiastic about Labour either.

Hence, politically, some strange things are happening. First George Galloway gets elected in Bradford. Then John Prescott didn’t get elected in Humberside — even though it’s a traditional Labour heartland. This week we learned that Rotherham council thinks it’s OK to take children away from foster parents because they support Ukip, and the subsequent row has further poisoned an already nasty by-election. Labour is locked into a dirty tricks row with the far-left Respect party, after Asian areas were targeted with leaflets claiming Labour were ‘closet racists’. In the run-up to the vote lurid stories about grooming and ‘Asian sex gangs’ have stoked tensions between communities, creating the perfect opportunity for the rabble–rousers of the BNP and EDL.

Even within Labour, there are tensions. Many local party activists in Rotherham wanted to select a councillor called Mahroof Hussain as their candidate. But he was excluded from the shortlist drawn up by Labour’s national HQ, which says it wants a ‘clean break’ with the history of local politics in the area. Perhaps because, in the Bradford by-election, Labour had picked a popular local councillor — and George Galloway then used his links with the council to pummel him. This time, Labour doesn’t want to take any risks.

It isn’t just Rotherham where voters are feeling distinctly unenthusiastic about the main parties. The two seats with the two lowest turnouts at the last general election were Manchester Central and Leeds Central. In fact, of the ten English seats with the lowest turnout, nine are in the North.


There’s huge cynicism about politics everywhere in the country, but its potency in the North is something Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband are struggling to deal with.

For example, an almighty 83 per cent of northern voters think that ‘politicians don’t understand the real world at all’. Only 16 per cent of northern voters think that Britain’s future will be better than its past, while 60 per cent disagree. The concerns of Westminster politics can seem very distant. The majority of northern voters (but not southern voters) think that ‘so-called green policies are mostly a waste of money’.

The Labour government of 1997 was freighted with huge expectations everywhere — but nowhere was the subsequent disappointment greater than in the North. Labour’s support among working-class voters fell by a fifth when it was in government. Ed Miliband’s election as party leader has left the party with a major problem in what is supposed to be its heartland. A focus group run by Policy Exchange found some wondering if they still recognise the Labour party. ‘You spend your time at Oxford, then spend time being a research assistant for someone in parliament… It’s all out of a book, isn’t it?’ In his party conference speech this year Miliband was forced to major on the fact that he had been at a comprehensive — precisely because voters assume that he is another southern public school boy.

The North-South gap has, of course, been a factor of British public life for decades. In the 1920s and 1930s it was northern towns, reliant on staple industries like coal, shipbuilding and weaving, that bore the brunt of the recession. The South and Midlands enjoyed a ‘metroboom’ as ribbon development of suburbs sliced through the Home Counties, and new industries like cars and chemicals located down south. George Orwell described the growing gap, contrasting the ‘lunar landscape of slagheaps’ in the North, with the new factories in the south: ‘glittering white structures of concrete, glass, and steel’.

After the war, extreme measures were adopted to force industry out of the south. Firms wanting to expand in areas of low unemployment required permission to do so. And in the early 1960s, a fifth of applications from firms wanting to expand in the south-east were refused. But the gap continued to widen. The shift from shipping to a road-based economy favoured towns on the new motorway network and hammered port towns. Steady southward migration over decades meant that the share of the population living in the North and Midlands shrank from the war onwards, from more than a third in 1945 to about a quarter now.

Meanwhile, 1970s northern towns saw huge changes. Glorious civic architecture was ripped down to make way for brutal new blocks. New migrants arrived — particularly into traditional textile areas — just as the industries they came to work in started to collapse. Decades of mismanagement and mistaken policies came home to roost in the 1980s. The miners’ strike added to the sense of division. The number of miners actually fell much faster in the years before the Thatcher government than during her time in office. The 1984 strike was sparked by a plan to shut 20 uneconomic pits; Harold Wilson’s first government had shut around 300.

But such details didn’t matter. The strike created an image of division — and regional kulturkampf — which was hammered home by Thatcher’s political opponents. In the 1987 election Gordon Brown pounded away relentlessly on the idea that the Tories were a cruel gang of southerners who didn’t care about the North. ‘Regional divisions are now more marked than ever before,’ he argued; the Tories had ‘attacked the North’ and ‘systematically destroyed’ its economy. It wasn’t subtle stuff. It was a powerful attempt to stamp Labour’s flag on the North. It worked.

Much good it did them. Only now, two years after Labour left office, has its record in the North become clear. Under New Labour, the economic divide was made wider than ever; my home county of Yorkshire went from being 10 per cent behind the UK average in 1997 to being 17 per cent behind. The economic output of financial services in London has now overtaken the entire north-east’s economy. Not London’s economy as a whole, but just one industry — concentrated in one square mile — has come to generate more wealth than a whole region of 2.6 million people.

The much-hullabalooed regional development agencies and a welter of other schemes failed to turn the tide. The plans ranged from the dull to the almost comically inept. Yorkshire’s agency sponsored a high-concept plan to turn Barnsley into a ‘Tuscan hill village’. Then came ‘Prezzagrad’, the plan to create a futuristic ‘super city’ running the length of the M62 — it ran into one small problem: the Pennines.

Meanwhile, London extended its educational advantage while the North was left behind. Figures out this week named the councils with the most failing schools. Fourteen of the worst 20 were northern councils. In Barnsley, only a fifth of kids go to secondary schools which the government considers acceptable.

If northern voters feel abandoned by all three parties now, there is a reason: to deal with a problem, you must first understand the problem. And over the decades there has been precious little sign of this from Westminster politicians or northern council leaders. Politicians have failed because they tried, unrealistically, to ignore the market forces driving today’s economy.

The education gap is the most urgent problem, because skills are the main determinant of an area’s long-term growth. Ministers and northern councils should move heaven and earth to lure in the most successful chains of academies — like ARK and Harris — to turn around their failing schools. They need money to expand, and councils would be much better spending their money helping turn schools around than building costly vanity projects (why do all northern councils want to build a tram?). Alternatively, the most disastrous councils could become educational enterprise zones, in which profit-seeking schools would be allowed to set up in areas where the state has failed.

The North can gain advantage where it offers something the South doesn’t. Take Preston. It was a surprising boom town, achieving the third-fastest rate of private sector job creation in England during the first ten years of Labour. Why? Failed plans for ‘Central Lancashire New Town’ left behind loads of land with planning permission agreed — making it the ideal place to locate a new business. When the South is being sniffy about building in its green and pleasant vales, the North should turn southern nimbyism to its advantage. Local pay bargaining may help too: salaries more in keeping with those paid locally can allow organisations like the NHS to hire more people. Letting people turn empty shops into housing could tidy up rundown town centres in the North. There are lots of opportunities if we work with, not against, market forces.

When I was growing up in the North, I looked around at the evidence of its former glories. The amazing town halls, public libraries and great houses. But there is something depressingly nostalgic about all that. It’s frustrating because the North has so much going for it now: the best music, the most beautiful countryside, great, characterful cities, and (unlike in London) the opportunity to live in a house bigger than a shoebox.

Westminster politicians have repeatedly promised to close the North-South gap, but failed because they ignored economic reality, and flushed our money away on stupid gimmicks. No wonder northern voters think politicians ignore them and don’t understand them. Unless we change direction, it’s going to become ever harder to refer honestly to ‘one nation’: because our country will steadily come apart.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 

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Show comments
  • rtj1211

    I grew up in the south east, worked as a young man in Scotland, relocated to Oxford, then worked in the North of England for a decade.

    The North needs fiscal independence from London.

    It doesn’t need the SE taking over the North and turning northern people into servants of the South.

    • Gwangi

      Well, considering there are plenty of poor and out of work people in London and the South, and those regions massively subsidise the North, it seems southern (poor) people are already servants of The North!

      The North will constantly whinge and crave victimhood, no matter what (as do the Scots and the Welsh).

      But really, the poorest down south and in London, and the West country, Devon, Cornwall etc are always totally ignored. People north of Watford think everyone down south wears gold suits and lives in 6 bedroom mansions. What a load of wassocks!

  • john

    Please let’s stop pretending that the London power base would ever contemplate a rival city in the North. Power and priviledge are limited to a mile or two around Buck House/W1 and the incumbents intend that it stays that way. They have no interest in allowing the lower orders into the charmed circle. Regional policy in the UK has achieved nothing in 50 years.

  • hdb

    Greater local pay bargaining by the NHS is likely to simply result in a depression in salaries in the north rather than in more people being taken on. It will just be taken as an opportunity to cut costs and the economic result will be less money going into the north as a whole. This should be fairly obvious as no major increases in spending on the NHS are in prospect.

    This article really is rather short on ideas …

  • hdb

    Why does every northern town want a tram? Let me guess Neil is not a public transport user? Trams are vastly preferred by most people who use public transport. They are much faster than buses and more comfortable. Given the average northern city had a higher percentage of public transport users it is fairly obvious that councils will be keen to provide this form of transport.

  • hdb

    Paying Ark and Harris lots of money isn’t necessarily going to improve education. The idea that if you just pour money in the outcomes will be better ignores the complexity of education. The motivation of children and the background they come from are major factors very hard to charge. Arguably first you have to change the prospects of the area and then the kids will do better.

  • Gwangi

    ‘Could a northern ‘supercity’ rebalance Britain’s economy?’
    I shall add this to my collection of questions to which the answer is NO.
    Predictably, it will the Manchester and Salford Media City etc which gets all attention (doncha get sick of hearing grating Mancunian accents on TV and radio drama?!). As usual, other cities – Sheffield, for example – will get ignored. As will other ignored places like the West Country and south-west, and the Midlands.
    There is NO other city in the UK that is anything like London. Pretending that this is the case is as bad as claiming women’s football is the equivalent of men’s football and as good as the male game, or that the Paralympics are the equivalent and just as important and great as the main Olympics. Politically correct and inoffensive, yes. True? Nope.

  • global city

    A major problem that we have is that EVERYTHING is centred on London. ALL of the newspapers, ALL of the charities, ALL of the think tanks, ALL of the lobbyists, ALL of the Business Associations….and so on… ALL to network, interact, inform and influence the State nexus.

    A small example. This is a very important world event

    But it has had no coverage in the MSM because it is not ’round the corner’ in that thar lundun. As a result any impact it could have is minimal, as events like these need to be tied in with other networks to have any traction.

    This isolation is compounded, as the local political class see everything through the prism of revenue and social support, so the opportunity to explore how our cities generate wealth and could do more is missed, as they use the platform to talk statism and ‘savage cuts’ from Whitehall.

    All those airports and mega-motorways, theatres and cultural centres dotted around Spain, linking nowhere special with nowhere significant is a lesson for those who see the concept of designating Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Sheffield-Hull as some sort of supercitymetropilis is pointless unless the basics of wealth production is understood and facilitated.

    I am not really sure that ANY of our politicians and mandarins actually understand remotely how this occurs.

    • Gwangi

      No, not everything is in London at all. From the 60s on there was a push to site offices of state functions outside London. So the health service is based in Leeds, the DVLA in Swansea, the passport office in Scotland or Northern Ireland (I think), student loans company used to be in Scotland, and a recent massive BBC move to Salford. Various other government offices all over the provinces.

      In fact, certain parts of the north get too much – the Manchester area and Scotland, always. If anywhere misses out its the West Country, Devon and Cornwall.

      Plus, the chippy northerner lie is that everyone down south is rude and rich. In fact, though very wealthy people are mostly in London, there are pockets of poverty all over the south and London. The bigotry of the North is shameless. Maybe they should get out more and stop projecting their envy fantasies on the evil south of Britain.

      Fact is, London needs to be poorer – that would make life better for locals. if immigrants were sent back or discouraged from coming (no benefits for example), and if all foreign property buyers had to pay way more tax (the same as they do in New York, say). Too many people are in London: that is the problem.

      • global city

        trading strategic power, wealth, profits and the apparatus of reinvestment for some ‘jobs’ is not redistribution of anything at all really.

        I agree that much of the South West gets even less.

      • rtj1211

        The NE always got a lot when Tony Blair was in power: him, Miliband and Mandelson were MPs up there.

        AS for the ‘northern bigotry’, I promise you, as a person who grew up in the SE and worked in the North, that I don’t ‘envy’ London scroungers, I despise them. Hacking computers to steal public sector projects for Northern clients so London can copy them for free isn’t something to envy friend……..

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    There is absolutely no reason to build on greenfield land up north. They have acre after acre after acre of brownfield wasteland just screaming for it. We need to forget about HS2 and directly connect the cities up north with a fast transit system. It needs to survive on its own without London.

    London needs its wings clipped for the good of the country as a whole. Recycling money in hedge funds etc is not real wealth.

    • Amanda

      I like ‘Manpool’ myself. God knows it’s hard to find a good one. Also, if you changed the spelling to Nuderland you might get some alternative-lifestyle types coming.

  • John Smith

    Come & have a look at how Labour run Stockton & Middlesbrough in Teesside. Then you will understand ..

  • andagain

    I don’t think a soundbite will make much of a difference. It would need HS2-levels of investment in the road and rail links between all those cities.

    Osbourne might be planning to give the go-ahead with that – he did with HS2, after all – but until then, this is just so much hot air.

  • tjamesjones

    Should we write what we think today, or what we think we might have thought 2 years ago? This is new to me.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Why was this comment removed…..?

    ‘In the run-up to the vote lurid stories about gr00ming and
    ‘Asian sox gangs’ have stoked tensions between communities, creating the
    perfect opportunity for the rabble–rousers of the BNP and EDL’

    I do hope
    that you weren’t suggesting that only the ‘rabble are roused by this.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Some random thoughts on Osborne’s latest whizzo wheeze. This is so reminiscent of the last year of Brown’s time in government, Remember ‘Gulags for slags’ that was a good one.

    1. London is the most public sector resource hungry region of England there is. Does Osborne want to create its mirror in the north?

    2. London has sucked the life out of most of the surrounding southern region. Does the north really want the same future?

    3. Is Osborne really that desperate to justify the profligacy in HS2 that he would build a supercity to give it justification

    4. The Tories can’t win in the current urban conurbations virtually anywhere across the country. Does Osborne seriously want to make the situation worse?

    5. Has immigration become that desperate a problem that government need an overspill location?

    6. Creating a super city to compete with London would cost a fortune.

    7. With London’s proximity to Europe its highly unlikely that a northern equivalent would ever be able to compete.

    Seriously though does Osborne seriously think by polarising northern society around one location in the north is going to rebalance anything or benefit anyone? We need to decentralise across the country not set up a scenario where north and south both have a capital and can happily divide!

    • Lucy Sky Diamonds

      We dont need to ‘create’ a supercity. The current cities up north need to coordinate better.

    • rtj1211

      The way the North would compete is not to focus on Europe but to focus on global markets, where the difference between London and the North is minimal……

  • misomiso

    A northern London would be a good thing.

    What would be REALLY radical though is too move the political capital to the North. This reconnect the governing class with its citizens as London is becoming another planet.

    This doesn’t need to be a permanant arrangement. We could have the capital in Manchester for 20 years, then Edinborough and then Cardiff. At least it would stop the media class being so London centric, and could help keep the Union together.

    And then London MPs would learn what a nightmare it is getting too and from Parliament the whole time!

    • HookesLaw

      There is an argument for moving the political capital away from thne economic one. true. The Australian ca[pital is not Sydney. For years the German capital was Bonn and the financial one Frankfurt. Now it is again Berlin but the financial capital is still frankfurt.

      But the London financial market is much bigger and to what extent is this due to the fact is the political capital?
      London has always been very much the biggest city and the economic driver. Would playing around with the location of the capital make that much difference? There is a whole infrastructure associated with government I don’t think it would really work to make a new location peripatetic. Moving it to the north then York would present itself. Where would the new parliament and civil service base be built? Is there not a chance it would become a ‘green zone’ enclave and be even more remote?

      There is an argument for movement – but has anybody ever seriously made it?

      • Alexsandr

        i’d move the DfT to Derby. where all the main rail people are.

        • HookesLaw

          Yes I see what you mean, Bombardier are based in Derby I think – but Hitachi is moving its wolrdwide train building interests to the north east. Newton Aycliffe.
          Sometime you wonder if the poor downtrodden north bit is somewhat overdone.

          • Alexsandr

            there is a train leasing company (Porterbrook) in derby as well as many companies that were once the rail technical centre. And East Midland Trains have their main depot there.

    • Smithersjones2013

      So the taxpayer has to waste even more money shifting these venal parasites around the country every 20 years. Great!

      Still at least we’ll have the ‘pleasure’ of a never-ending source of expenses scandals as MP’s buy and sell properties as they move around the country Oh what fun it will be!

      It’ll never happen because you need the transport links to go with it and you will not see a Heathrow being built next to each of your cities. The simple reality is that the reason London became the capital is because of its proximity to Europe and that cannot change……

  • Gut Instinct

    The lobbying and
    regular calls for lots of new housing and “Garden Cities” smacks of
    orchestrated campaigning for and on behalf of all those corporate interests
    that would benefit from it.

    the construction industry pressure groups are consistently pushing the
    government and citing “desperate shortage” to justify government
    initiatives in their favour. This government has a track record of finding very
    good justification for supporting well-lobbied business causes. In our own interests,
    of course — that’s how it is always justified.

    Of course, Tory Party
    Central are all very well-educated intellectual politicians that are completely
    detached from the people who make up the very grass roots, the bedrock vote of
    the party. Whether it’s build over Britain or HS2, extra runways and the power
    up construction companies and planners to ride roughshod over the local
    populace wishes, it’s no surprise those once unshakeable Tory voters are
    turning to UKIP. That is rapidly becoming the face of what John Major famously
    described as “a Conservative Party at ease with itself”.

    Nobody denies that the
    demand is high. All those vested interests AND the government refuse to
    acknowledge that the cause of the shortage is the 2,000,000+ accommodation
    units taken off the market by the growing number of illegal immigrants and
    bogus asylum seekers and their dependents. We should not build over the
    countryside to make room for people who shouldn’t be here in the first place
    and we certainly don’t want them here.

    is an avoidable inconvenience for this administration. No doubt they will
    explain why that is in our interests at some stage.

  • anyfool

    So build a super city to take all the millions of non productive third world immigrants away from the south, I suppose we deserve this, after all it is the North that sustained the dung beetles in Labour who imported them to boost there vote share.
    If I were living in the south I would force them north as well.
    This is what the plan means, why build a super city in a declining area, who is going to fill the houses, this is or will be a monstrous dump full to the gunnels with the scum of the earth.

    • HookesLaw

      That is of course not the point – read my link to the FT.
      But of course every topic has to be turned to your white supremacist rubbish.

      • anyfool

        You witless halfwit, I have contempt for some people of all races including whites, the third world is not just Africa and Asia.

        I have no interest in your link to the FT, if you have something that your own mind has produced, please put it down on paper.

        But if you need others to think for you do not reply to my posts, while we are on about this, your comment ( That is of course not the point) is meaningless unless you yourself can think of something to go with it.

        • HookesLaw

          ‘no interest’ – that sums you up. Happy lost in your own prejudice. In fact if you had engaged the pea sized bit of grey matter rattling about inside your skull you would know that what is being discussed is to make existing areas more cohesive and better able to fight the pull of London – and not somewhere to dump the ‘scum’ which seem to be a constant exercise to your infantile mind.

          • Smithersjones2013

            i don’t know why you bother Hooky. You have demonstrated to us all what a narrow minded bigoted cupid stunt you are. Nobody will take any notice of you!

            All in the best possible taste of course!

            • southerner

              He keeps bothering because he is thick as pig swill. Like the rest of the socialist Camerluvvies.

              • HookesLaw

                Hilarious – coming from Mr Thicko himself. A discussion of co-ordinated planning and expansion for the north of England and Anyfool lapses into his usual ‘dung beetles of third world immigrants’.
                And of course nutjob that you are you lap it up. You are a nasty bigoted bunch. I am delighted to have upset you.

                I marvel at the editors willingness to give you white supremacists air time.

                • southerner

                  Ha not upset old son – you genuinely crease me up. I have friends all round the country and we race to tell each other the next Hooky cracker. You have no self awareness at all. If you did you would realise people are laughing at you. All the time.

        • southerner

          Nicely put but you are wasting time with Hooky. Halfwit doesn’t begin to cover it. He has no original thoughts of his own. He just waits for copy from the socialist Camerluvvie press corps.

        • you_kid

          Oi, nobble head – ever written anything of relevance yourself?
          A book, a tale or summat funny? I doubt you’d have a clue what a Noli Plan is. It tells you how a city works and has black and white bits to it. Without both it don’t work, bro – just like in da reel world.

          Now take your sorry backside and get me a cuppa – you are my immigrant for the evening. Because I feel like it.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …speaking of nobble heads, how are you and the sockpuppet army doing today, lad?

      • GenJackRipper

        Yes of course; pointing out that illiterate people from the third world are non productive is white supremacist…


    • Alexsandr

      Build a city for them on Saddleworth Moor. they will love it up there.

  • DaveTheRave

    What is Greater Manchester, for instance, is it is not already a ‘supercity’?
    How much green land would have to be sacrificed for such an ill-advised project?
    The North of England has its own particular qualities, so creating a vast endless suburbia to rival Greater London would be an absolute abomination.
    I would favour a Council of the North, regular meetings of northern English MPs in important northern cities, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York, Newcastle, to confer, discuss, plan and implement Northern specific policies… The same could be done in the West of England and East Anglia. I would also give more powers to all English County Councils.
    And again, you’re talking about England NOT Britain, for heaven’s sake.

    • HookesLaw

      The north really already has a supercity conurbation, the area from Manchester stretching through Huddersfield Bradford and on to Leeds. It just needs linking and co-ordinating. This is I believe the principle behind Osborne’s idea – not a new greenfield city. I suspect if you added up all the sums spent on the area since the war (and I come from the North) then it would add up to a small fortune. The north has not been neglected.

      There is Liverpool to the West and Hull to the east and Sheffield to the south. The area has two major airports. One of the things which would help the area of course would be a high speed rail link to the south and on to Scotland. It would then be right at the heart of the nation.

      • DaveTheRave

        I concur on the point about utilising the existing conurbation but HS2, for me at least, is an utter waste of money. Sorry. But no doubt it will get built and some future PM will be able to glory in its completion, if not its effectiveness.

        • HookesLaw

          Its sad that the Spectator takes Osborne’s sensible ideas about the conurbation either side of the Pennines and only sees fit to resurrect an outdated article.

          The point made in the FT article was that the govt have already announced £600 million of rail improvements, principally east-west in the region and its good to see the govt is taking a holistic approach to the HS2 project.

          • Alexsandr

            compare and contrast. Investment in the North and investment in the south east. And the rail press are saying that when Northern is relet it will be for less services. DfT doesnt understand that the North needs decent transport. But then the DfT is cr@p.

            • HookesLaw

              The govt has already announced hundreds of millions of transport investment. The northern hub for instance – £600 million. This includes rail improvements to Manchester Airport. I seem to remember reading about some hundreds of millions investment in respect of a new tech-city associated with Manchester Airport.

              • Alexsandr

                big diff between 600 million and 15.9 billion for crossrail. But then London has also had south western 12 car scheme, capacity improvements on ECML at Finsbury Park, Thameslink upgrade.

      • Alexsandr

        what would help is to do some serious work to make the transpennine network have enough capacity and speed. Listen to radio 2 traffic and the M62 and the M60 are always in trouble. A decent network linking liverpool with newcastle via Warrington, Manchester, Huddrsfield, Leeds and York would help a lot. And a decent orbital link from Rochdale to Oldham, Stalybridge, Hyde, Stockport, and Manchester Airport

        • HookesLaw

          These are part of the ideas being proposed. The area is a huge conurbation and needs a co-ordinated strategy.
          The area also has a number of leading universities which are a key to its technological development.

          I suggest you set down your ideas an write a nice letter to Mr Osborne.

          • global city

            You are actually a feckin’ socialist!

        • global city

          There are loads of road systems like that in North Korea. It is something else that dictates whether a place regenerates or not.

          • Alexsandr

            sorry. Meant transpennine rail. should have made mesen clearer.

      • global city

        and why would this generate wealth? What would be the dynamic?

      • Roger Hudson

        The new high speed rail link should go to Europe, joining the existing one somewhere like Ebbsfleet.

  • dalai guevara

    Great list of bullet points – The North and North West is indeed not one nation, but a one party state. Manchester the obvious example where Labour now sport 95 of 96 councillors, Leeds way behind with two third Labour rule still.
    Are these cities failing? Of course not. Why not? Why are one party state cities not failing? Because that would be down to people, not parties, that would be down to heritage and historical ties, flexibility of the workforce and places of work, that would be down to accessibility from the outside and cosmopolitan outlook from the inside.

    In none of the above could we note the North or North West failing. They are not underperforming. What is underperforming however is a centralist government that is only now beginning to value its regions again. That is about time.

    • davidofkent

      I feel that any attempt to move some of the people out of the South-East to the North would be most welcome. That would include some of the many thousands of asylum seekers and other immigrants, of course. The big question in my mind, however, is, “if it’s such an obviously good idea, why are people not rushing up there already?”. Of course, many towns outside of the South-East are successful, it is merely a matter of scale.

      • rtj1211

        I thought everyone in London and the SE loved their immigrants: cheap nannies, cheap labour to run the NHS, hotels etc etc.

        Strange you want to kick them all out now…..

    • HookesLaw

      Back in about 2008 the libdems had 34 seats. Labour has benefited from their decline.
      For what its worth Manchester’s population is only about 500,000 which is not that big so it does not particularly give a clear indication of local political opinion. In neighbouring Trafford (pop. 230,000) the Conservatives hold 33 seats to Labour’s 27. In Stockport the libdems have 28 seats to labours 22. The tories even manage 10.

      • dalai guevara

        There we have it. A case made for realigning some boundaries – Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Oldham, Stockport etc are of course long one city, not five. The conurbation is 2.5m, not a mere 500k.

        • global city

          ‘Underbounded’ the term used to be. Liverpool is terribly so.

        • Alexsandr

          they tried that with the GMC. It was too big to manage.

        • Chris

          You obviously don’t read the MEN. The people of ‘Greater Manchester’ certainly don’t think that the region is ‘one city’, just because they were lumped together in the 70’s. The addresses are still Lancs or Cheshire in Oldham and Stockport.

          • dalai guevara

            You make two good points.
            Firstly, the MEN is no longer worth reading and secondly, narrowing down my list to Manchester, Salford and Trafford means that you know what you are talking about.

  • anyfool

    One thing you have failed to mention, the people in the north and the north east in particular keep voting for the Labour Party, this party has kept this area in poverty for over a hundred years.
    That the people keep thinking that the next time Labour will be better, after five generations or so you would at least think that some would actually stop and think, surely there has to be something better than this failed party.
    While they are content to live off the crumbs from the rest of the country nothing will change, benefit junkies are harder cases to crack than crack junkies.

    • Kitty MLB

      I think he skirted around that idea when he mentioned things became worse
      under New- Labour who abandoned the North for London. And yes we have
      a benefits culture now and as I said to some other wise ole sage here.
      Stupid people will vote for people like them, other stupid people who will benefit no one but the stupid. But that’s in general and not just Labour voters of the North.
      And not all people up North are lazy and on benefits , they are the ones who would like to see the sparkle back into our industrious Northern
      Cities..and when apposed by Labour will have a Damascus moment maybe.

      • anyfool

        Except for when working away or abroad I have lived in the North East all my life, it is not just the benefit junkies who vote for that shower of excreta called Labour, it also includes a proportion of non public sector workers.
        The mindless support for them is beyond comprehension, and yes a common refrain is ” we ” meaning our family have always voted Labour indicates a lack of original thought.
        I did not say that there was no hard working people nor that all were professional benefit claimants.
        There is lots of potential, the countryside is superior to most, but the area is held back by a large minority of inbred cave dwellers.

      • rtj1211

        Actually, one of the biggest challenges up there is making them realise that York fighting Leeds means Yorkshire loses out to Massachusetts etc etc. Same with Liverpool and Manchester. I saw it for a decade up there. Then when they tried the Northern Way the NW tried to say they had to lead on everything, which was hardly conducive to unity, was it? Particularly with New Labour Leadership so prevalent in the North East…..

    • telemachus

      the people in the north and the north east in particular keep voting for the Labour Party, this party has kept this area in poverty for over a hundred years.
      Turn it round will you
      The North is poor and sees resources continuing to be pumped in to the prosperous South East
      So they vote for their only hope
      The member for Morley and Outwood will deliver for them next year

      • Alexsandr

        There may be another member for Morley and Outwood in May 2015. Have you seen the size of his majority. The good people of W Yorks seem to have missed his so-called charisma.

        • HookesLaw

          Politically speaking it would be a bit of a blow if Balls lost his seat. I highly value is corrosive affect on Labour.

        • telemachus

          You forget the charisma factor

          • Ooh!MePurse!

            Ha! He has the charisma of an elderly toad.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Except if you check the PESA figures you will find that the North receives far more than anywhere in the South except London who of course have their own share of Labour Ghettos.

        • telemachus

          What the North needs is the feeling of a hub
          I hear a progressive move for an English Parliament
          I can think of no better location than Salford Quays

          • Mike Oddpiece

            If you can’t think of a better location than that then Lord help you.

            • telemachus

              That comment tells us just why we need to think of the location as Salford Quays or similar

          • rtj1211

            If you’re going to have it in Manchester, then surely locate it at the new HS2 Manchester Airport Station.

            Logic suggests somewhere more central to England, however.

      • Hexhamgeezer


        Sez a Northerna

    • Jamie200

      Let’s hope Ukip kick labour into gear up north…

      • samhol

        You know what, I agree… I hope UKIP can shake some Northerners from their political torpor.

  • The Masked Marvel

    In theory, sure. But at what cost? And how would any coherent plan get past the wealth re-distribution crowd?

  • In2minds

    More and yet more, growth, a property bubble, more houses, more immigration, more more more. If only it were so simple, but it’s not. So no, don’t do it, no to a ‘supercity’.

  • Kitty MLB

    An excellent idea in principle, but I do have two issues, one
    being Labour run councils and excessive immigration both
    of which doesn’t help the economy.
    Governments have been far to busy making London too important
    and as you say a gap widened under New- Labour who despise
    the Working Class Northern voter who are or were their core voters.
    I thought of York myself but have been told that this city should
    be a larger city such as Manchester or Birmingham.
    Or maybe Newcastle, if Scotland vote for independence and things
    turnout not as they expect there will be a English super city just
    beneath our dearest Celtic neighbours.

    • Wessex Man

      Have none of you noticed that this article appeared first in 2012, our friend doesn’t tell us why he was ‘nearly run over’ time certainly hasn’t improved this article!