Is Manchester being used as a political guinea pig?

by Richard Kay

IN THE run-up to the General election Manchester is perceived by many as a political test case for the rest of the nation.

A debate on the October 2 saw MPs from the three main political parties discuss the importance of North West business in this time of recession.

Amid talk about the significance of Manchester’s economic growth, Ben Wallace, Conservative MP for Lancaster and Wyre, said that the North West was a “key baton iron in the next election”.

This comes as no surprise considering the BBC’s move to the North’s hotly anticipated Media City in Salford. Warren Bradley, Liberal Democrat Leader of Liverpool City Council, said it was “so important to Liverpool”.

Manchester’s importance to our political leaders is evident in their actions. This year the Conservatives will hold their annual conference at Manchester Central starting a trend set by Labour in 2008.

But the Labour projects set for the city indicate the way Government has failed to approach the North West. The super casino failed, the congestion charge failed and now the identity card scheme, if election predictions hold true, is set to follow.

This at least was the opinion held by Cllr. Bhatti, Conservative councillor for Whalley Range, when he spoke out against the ID card scheme: “Once again, we have a clapped-out Government treating Manchester as a guinea pig. We saw it with the super casino and then we saw it with the disastrous attempt to impose a congestion charge to our city.”

Although these projects may have proven unsuccessful, Labour’s persistency over the last few years is encouraging to Manchester residents who can be proud of their city’s economy. David Cameron has said: “This is one of the great cities of the world. You’ve just got the fastest growing economy in the UK. Only London has more inward investment and more visitors.”

The Conservatives are certainly concerned about Manchester’s future. Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, recently spoke out on the state of Moss Side following his tour of the area with Greater Manchester Police.

He said: “The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this Government, in many parts of British cities, the Wire has become a part of real life in this country too.”

Manchester residents don’t seem entirely taken by their status as a political guinea pig.

Leslie Garrett, 44, Withington, said: “A lot of the things politicians say are gimmicks anyway.

“I don’t like being thought of as a northerner, I’m a Mancunian, we’re different from other northerners.”

Sara Brindley, 24, “I’d like to see the Green party talk about Manchester.”

Andrew Farah, 34, of Heaton Moor, added: “Manchester is not the London of the North.”

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