“This is Manchester. We do things differently here.” Anthony H Wilson

The saying ‘never talk about religion or politics’ is often well advised, but given that everyone seems to be talking about little else other than the latter, there’s another well known saying that starts ‘if you can’t beat them…’

I’ve always had a soft spot for Andy Burnham, ever since he backed our ‘Creative Wigan’ Campaign a few years back and spoke at the launch event. The former MP for Leigh has very recently become the new Mayor of Manchester and outlined his plans at another one of the excellent business breakfasts hosted by Wigan Youth Zone.

As well as his ambitions for education, transport, social equality, housing and an aim to revitalise town centres, Andy focused on his plans to support commerce in Manchester by making it “The 21st century UK industrial capital, a world-leading Digital City and Green City, where businesses are supported to succeed and jobs are decently-paid and secure.”

Manchester is well down that path already, as reflected in a skyline that’s changing from an industrial one to corporate one, with huge inward investment such as the BBC’s home in Media City, which continues to thrive and is expanding with new phases of development. This is being added to by The Northern Powerhouse initiative with Manchester set to be the biggest beneficiary of the £556M pledged. Then there’s the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund of £400M, which has been set up to support small businesses, the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership is to receive £130M of funding and, according to EY, there were more than 50 direct foreign investment deals last year.

All of which is good news for Greater Manchester, although it still pales into insignificance when compared to London – infrastructure spend is still six times higher in the capital and it never seems to get challenged. The £20B plus spent on Crossrail for example isn’t questioned, yet, whenever something like HS2 is proposed there’s a furore about cost.

As a dedicated ‘Northerner’, Andy was one of the key players in supporting the long running Hillsborough campaign for justice for example, he explained that he became increasingly disillusioned with the London-centric attitude in which nothing outside the M25 seems to exist. He decided to follow his convictions, leave Westminster and become Manchester’s mayor to try and do something about it, a decision which, regardless of what he might go onto achieve, you have to respect and admire.

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