Is Manchester a Northern Powerhouse? Well, it depends on the context. Manchester’s got the lot compared to other northern cities. In a table of the most powerful northern cities, Manchester is a long way ahead of places like Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle. It has also raced ahead of Liverpool and Leeds which were considered its close rivals for the title ‘capital of the north’ 20 years ago. People from all over the country and all over the world now come to Manchester not just to study but to live.

But a day trip to London will confirm that Manchester is still miles behind the capital. The cities of the north are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. To compete with London economically, they need to be brought closer together by better transport links and by being given more autonomy. This is what George Osborne means by Northern Powerhouse – not one city, but a collection of northern cities.

Will the north ever be able to compete with London economically? London is so far ahead of the rest of the country that it seems unlikely. But remember that when Alex Ferguson took over at United in 1986 and promised to knock Liverpool off their perch, nobody believed him. Liverpool had won 15 league titles and United had won seven. The rest is history.

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