To Manchester last night, for dinner with Sir Richard Leese, its council leader. Anyone in doubt as to why the place is storming ahead of its northern rivals would have been well served to be a fly on the wall.
Tour Rules mean the details must remain confidential but the bottom line was clear: vision, stability, intellect and teamwork – plus a 20-odd year run at working with central government – have been the key ingredients for Manchester’s success.
Think it’s happened overnight? Not a bit of it. Think Manchester is favoured because it’s, er, Manchester? Nah – it’s a place government can work with because of stable, strong leadership that delivers. In other words, it can be trusted to perform. Other northern cities wanting their share of the Powerhouse agenda must simply deliver on the same terms.
But what they mustn’t do is think they need to be like Manchester, cautioned Sir Richard. They must find their own voice; find what’s distinctive about the place and focus on it relentlessly. Like Melbourne, maybe, with its disciplined focus on its sporting assets as the means by which it attracts investors’ attention.
Thanks must go to our good friends at Downtown for organising a most interesting soiree. I doff my cap.