Current Walton and Leigh MPs have pledged that, should they both win their respective Metro Mayor elections, they will bring Liverpool and Manchester closer together. Tony McDonough reports.
Often when politicians want to appear grown up and statesman-like they will embark on a bi-partisan venture.
Bi-partisan normally refers to political rivals working together but in the case of Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham, they are already in the same party.
This is a tale of two cities. Both men are the Labour candidates in the forthcoming Metro Mayor elections.
Rotheram is hot favourite to be elected as Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor in May with Andy Burnham also a decent prospect for Greater Manchester.
In recent days the current Walton and Leigh MPs have pledged that, should they both win their elections, they will bring Liverpool and Manchester closer together.
It makes sense, they say, when presenting the economic case to Government for more infrastructure investment, that the two cities present a united front.
“The devolution agenda means that, for the first time, the Liverpool and Manchester city regions can put aside those age-old tribal differences and collaborate on projects where it is in our mutual interests to do so, such as on infrastructure and transport,” Rotheram told iNews a few days ago,
“For every £6 the South receives in transport funding, the North gets just £1. Andy Burnham and I will challenge the Prime Minister to work with us to begin to close the North-South divide that has grown under the current Government.”
Burnham agreed, saying he was keen to “do politics differently”.
Of course, they are both right. It does make sense for the two cities to speak with one voice in terms of regional investment.
However, it can be argued that the “age-old rivalry” between the two city regions is already largely a thing of the past.
If you put the trivial antipathy over football aside, the idea that there is any genuine dislike and distrust between Liverpool and Manchester is a dubious one.
Certainly in terms of business there is a solid recent history over co-operation and overlap.
Professionals such as lawyers, accountants and commercial property agents routinely work across both sub-regions.
For a time there was even a organisation known as SWIM (Scousers Working in Manchester).
The respective civic leaders have also made greater efforts in recent times to work together.
Liverpool’s elected Mayor Joe Anderson and the chief executive of Manchester City Council, Sir Howard Bernstein, have frequently shared platforms, in particular at the MIPIM property and investment expo in Cannes.
In fact, at the UK version of MIPIM in London, Liverpool and Manchester have sent joint delegations for the past two years.
The private sector head of the Liverpool at MIPIM steering group is Sean Beech, senior partner at the Liverpool office of accountancy giant Deloitte.
Sean is Greater Manchester born and bred and yet speaks for Merseyside with a passion as great as any Scouser.
It can only be a good thing that Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham are pledging to work closely together if elected as Metro Mayors.
But they are not creating a new accord – merely building on one that already exists.