Paul Wheeler poses an interesting question in the Guardian asking why Chicago has more influence?
Both Chicago and Manchester have about 2.8 million people yet Manchester still struggles to punch its weight on the world stage. Paul Wheeler poses the question as to whether this is to do with Greater Manchester's dissipated local government with its 10 councils and chief executives all competing with each other rather than the slim-lined single mayor of Chicago?
Interestingly the BBC's Evan Davis is raising the same issue tonight in his 'Mind the Gap' programme.
Both argue that we need to be less parochial. I think they've got a point, but a better comparison is with the single city council in Birmingham (the UK one). Can it really be said that Greater Manchester is faring badly compared to Birmingham, the UK's largest council? We're probably out-performing Birmingham on every single metric. The problem it seems to me is London, the imperial capital with its insatiable greed and self-regard.
Personally, as a person who's always lived within the M60, I self define as a 'Manc', yet I've only lived two years of my life within the City Council's boundary. I've never actually called myself a Traffordian; I don't think I've ever met anyone who does. I don't have any sense of loyalty to a place called Trafford; largely because there isn't such a place. It's poignant that the place that calls itself 'The Trafford Centre' is the epitome of marketing insincerity with plastic columns and domes and an identikit retail offer to be found in every regional centre.
Emotionally, I can see no reason not to combine with Manchester. But until Greater Manchester is allowed the same independence as London, I don't see us being able to exert our potential whatever the governance arrangements. Whilst we still have to doff our caps to Whitehall, we're being held back. We won't be allowed to organise public transport, highways, policing (perhaps a good thing considering the Met's performance). If we ever are allowed to perform as a mature city region, there will be an argument for new local government structures, but let's not kid ourselves the 10 councils are the cause of this.
It's London, damn them!