Make Manchester the new capital, says The Economist

In its latest edition, The Economist makes “the pragmatic case for moving Britain’s capital to Manchester”, in order to decentralise decision making and spending, and create two rival centres of power in the UK.

Estimates are rising as to how much it’s going to cost to restore the Houses of Parliament in London, with a £4bn price tag if the House of Commons and House of Lords both entirely vacate for eight years, or a £5.7bn cost if the restoration is done incrementally over three decades.

In response, in its Bagehot column The Economist suggests using “the dire state of the Palace of Westminster” as an excuse for relocating the UK’s decision-making centre from London to Manchester. Manchester Central Conference Centre is suggested as a potential location, with “more than enough room to house the two houses of Parliament”.

The article continues: “Manchester is full of, and surrounded by, unused or underused former mills whose excellent connections to the centre make them perfect venues for government departments. The sale of ministerial buildings in central London would surely cover most or all of the costs of their conversion.”

The Economist cites Manchester’s housing expansion plans, the £1bn investment at Airport City, and “better infrastructure than Birmingham” as making it capable of becoming the UK’s new civic centre.

“Economists agree that one of the major reasons for Britain’s dismally low productivity is that it has too few big cities: London sucks investment and talent away from regional hubs that might one day develop into conurbations of its size.

“The point of the exercise should be to create two rival centres of the establishment. That demands a city with the attractions and capacity to counterbalance London; one capable of attracting government departments and their staff, the media, think-tanks, international investors and some businesses.”

The project would aim to create two centres of power in the UK, turning London into “a Barcelona to Manchester’s Madrid”.

“The shift would of course put pressure on Manchester. The city would have to accommodate many thousands of new residents. House prices would rise, the transport network would have to grow. Yet more than any other big city in Britain it has a record of dynamic civic leadership—hence George Osborne’s decision, as chancellor, to make it the hub of his ‘Northern Powerhouse’.”

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silly idea.

By exLondoner

It would be far more effective, and better for the North West in general, if the strengths of Manchester and Liverpool were conjoined, and supported by decent infrastructure and serious investment. It’s shocking that this region is still served by such shoddy, slow and unreliable road/rail etc. There are so many untapped resources beyond the inside of the M60!

By North Westerner

Stop the world, I want to get off. Never mind Barcelona or Madrid, this would be more akin to suggesting that a Benidorm, with lots of offices be made capital of Spain.

By Craig Earley

Just yet more rich boy’s talk.

Their kind have royally screwed up London, so where’s next?

By Mike

Wow this would be amazing and would be brilliant for the UK. Not sure where all these unused and underused mills are though! Most of them have or are being developed by Urban Splash and Capital & Centric. The UK needs to be rebalanced though with less reliance on the financial core of London so I for one would support this.

By Steve

As much as I’d love this to happen, I doubt that it will

By jk

Who paid him to say this rubbish????

By Jon

They would be better transferring the UK capital to Edinburgh.That may save the Union.Where would the Queen live in Manchester? Heaton Hall?

By Elephant

With the changing profile of the UK and a possibility of Scotland becoming even more self sufficient, the axis of England is shifting, so the North(West) will not be the centre of England, but more likely Birmingham. I don’t think this would be a good idea, London has had centuries of development to accomondate infrastructure for it’s duties. This would have a devastating effect on the city the size of Manchester, never mind the traffic. My only solution would be to build it in the middle of both cities of Manchester and Liverpool, with a vastly improved rail and road network to allow access for the workers from both areas…a sort of “Brasilia on Mersey” But at the end of the day pure speculation from a journal who’s record is not so good of late.

By Man on bicycle

Yes the comment about underused mills ripe for renovation, fit to house the civil service marks this article out for what it is…. a lazy polemic. Not exactly realistic or genuine but useful in as much as it challenges London-centrism that dogs mainstream thinking in politics and the media.

By manc

I think that Manchester is motoring away from the rest of the North anyway.What the Economist is suggesting is happening anyway.Two reports recently confirm this,the one from Colliers International which said it is the third most influential city in Europe,behind Europes two greatest cities,London and Paris.The second,as being the highest placed major city at number 14,as the best place for 20 to 30 somethings to live,Trafford,Salford,Bury,the better parts of Lancashire,Warrington and most of Cheshire featured in this list.This is down to the success of Manchester,as these are commuter areas for it.We already have a dominant second city,the parliament idea,is a bit pointless. Let Manchester grow organically,we do not need tokenistic rubbish like this.

By Elephant

The Mersey would burst it’s banks from the wailing scousers if this ever came to fruition

By Tofu

Oh look, a pointless Liverpool v Manchester comment from Tofu

By Nordyne

Maybe they would be laughing all the way to the bank if house prices increase because people want to live in a decent place rather than cramped souless flats with no view.

By Emperor of the North

Can’t understand this, Liverpool is the one they are all talking about. Grim landlocked mill town.

By Rhino

‘And heaven knows I’m miserable now’. The centre of Manchester is packed and overcrowded, and if I’m honest rather uninspiring and I lived there for a ling time. The capital city needs to be more than a big centre of population. The north west has the biggest population hub outside London but you wouldn’t want to put everything in a trough by the Irwell.

By Altmouth

How would the Mersey burst its banks? Do scousers live in the river? If they do, wouldn’t it already be burst… does this mean all the scousers-in-exile would come home and go in the river, and THEN the Mersey would burst its banks? I don’t really understand.

By Rooney

The implication of this article is that the Economist itself is actively contemplating some of our empty office accommodation. Adjacent to our intended version of the Spanish Steps perhaps?

By Christopher J Green

Rooney – basically the effect of a million furious, guttural scouse protestations would produce a volume of spray that would overwhelm the local drainage system and exceed the capacity of the mersey. That is how.

By manc

Their having a laugh, the BBC,can’t
even get people to stay or appear on the tv there!

By Burger van

….sorry thought I was reading a ‘red top’ for a minute then!

By Late Yesterday

The Liverpudlians on here are so jealous, why can’t they just leave it? Embarrassing.

By Kerem

No thanks, let London eat itself. Manchester is doing just fine as a second class citizen.

By Manc

Fake news……

By The Z Man

The usual vitriol.An intelligent debate has yet again turned in to,’My dad’s bigger than your dad’. Perhaps the capital should be in Bristol? Where it won’t offend anybody else. Or perhaps Bath will start whingeing?or Exeter?Put it in Stratford on Avon,as that would make culturally more sense,at least for the English.

By Elephant

I away’s thought Manchesterrrrrrrrrrrrrrr was capikol of the Norf lol


if they have to re-loacte it makes very good sense in terms of a base. Can’t see the politicians moving lock stock though

By Lee B

We need to embrace the idea that the North is more than one place and that is and will be its strength. It can’t be dominated by one city. That’s impossible for reasons of geography let alone culture. If we join all our cities up we can all prosper and reach our potential. But we can’t centre everything on one place, it wouldn’t work, and we know it doesn’t work in the south either. The North from Liverpool to Hull can be a counterweight to the dominance of London and the south with all it’s different centres connected but with none of them trying to take precedence or dominating the others. This should be our vision for the future.

By Altmouth

Exactly Altmouth, which is why Manchester needs to be at the centre of this.

By Conor

What a load of tosh

By Martin

Not in my name.

By Rosie York

Yes, but Manchester is just ONE of the centres of it. It isn’t in the centre geographically and it certainly is not in the centre of it in any other way. All the cities of the north need to be in the centre of it, playing to their own strengths, to the full. You can’t afford to leave any of the cities of the north out if it. The population is spread and we should aim to leave no area behind. You can only do that if you have a balance between all of the cities of the north. The northern cities fortunately are quite well balanced in terms of size. Hull, the smallest perhaps, is UK city of culture this year and can catch up.
It doesn’t help for Manchester to promote itself as ‘the biggest and the best’. None of the other cities want a North dominated by Manchester. It’s not what the north is, it never has been, and it’s very unlikely it ever will be.

By Altmouth

Altmouth has a point,but we need to be brutal when dishing out investment.There is no reason why someone in Liverpool would regularly wish to go to Hull.The economic engine within the North,starts at Leeds,through Manchester,Manchester airport,via Warrington,North Cheshire/Chester to Liverpool.Manchester is at the centre of this region. That is the reason for the Ordsall chord.

By Elephant

But it doesn’t follow Elephant that more investment should go to Manchester because you can make an argument that it sits between Liverpool and Leeds. Liverpool is the port to the rest of the world if we’re talking about global trade and there are many other arguments that can be made both for Liverpool and other places to justify investment based on economic potential just as great as for Manchester. There is no reason why Manchester should get special treatment unless for example it’s because railway lines cross there as for projects like the Ordsall Cord as you say. Manchester has had the bulk of the spending on transport for its own internal network too, the Manchester tram system. I think that money has rightly been spent on that system for Manchester but other cities deserve similar spending on their internal systems to expand Merseyrail for example or the West Yorkshire system.

By Altmouth

Altmouth you are right about West Yorkshire and Merseyside,and I have always advocated investment within each conurbation. The biggest problem in this country is not always getting to these places, but getting around them, once there. Leeds is a difficult city to navigate once arriving, if you want to go beyond the centre. Why is it right that we can arrive at any London station and get everywhere within that city with comparative ease? All our cities of a certain size, should have an Underground. Liverpool has one, but has it been expanded ever? Birmingham is the biggest city in Europe without an Underground.Can you imagine a city in Germany of that size with one tramline and buses, as the only means of getting around? It is a ludicrous state of affairs. I truly believe that Manchester has done well because of transport investment and you a right that it has had more than anyone else. I am a bit of a cynic and believe that the expansion of Metrolink coincided with Mediacity. Without that I doubt it would have seen that level of investment. Mediacity types like to live in Didsbury and Chorlton. My argument remains though, is there any economic point of a fast train from Liverpool to Hull?

By Elephant

Not in my name too.

By Emperor of the North

More delusional Manchester centric clap trap. I can see why the people behind it might think it is a good idea though: you take a place, a docile place, a place you know will never challenge you, and you then big it up and pour in endless vast subsidies. Instruct all your chums in the highest socio-economic levels of business and the state that it is THE go to place for all future investment. Never let foreigners become aware that any other options might exist for their money. Ignore or any inconvenient statistics that might show up the poor quality of life there. Then see to it that no countervailing arguments about the unfairness, poverty or lower life chances that’ll be visited on other large cities not in this designated golden zone ever get a hearing, by ensuring that thousands of people who work in the media have a vested interest in the project by plopping them there.

This is, of course, all stuff you will have already been doing with London for centuries, so it will make perfect sense for you to carry on with it now with your hoped for mini me doppelganger.

And If you can also have one particular place and people with a long history of calling out your s*** for what it really is (Liverpool) having half its economy “powerhoused” out of existence, then that is a wonderful bonus along the way!

By Gillespie

A million crying scousers? The population of Liverpool is less than half of that.

Liverpool would do well out of a capital located in Manchester.

By Rooney

I don’t agree with London getting an unfair amount of public transport spending, but you can’t forget that London’s huge transport infrastructure has been under development for over 150 years, before cities like Manchester even gained city status. I’m sure Manchester Metrolink will become even more extensive, especially in the next 20 years. I hope other cities develop extensive transport systems too.

By Tofu

Milk it Manchester , the whole city is deluded and needs to wake up and get out of the cities boundaries a lot more.
Utterly pathetic.

By Thishadtobeajoke

The economist isn’t from Manchester. Let that sink in Liverpool. You can’t deny the opinion of a neutral.

By Balanced

Read it and made a lot of sense to move some more powers outside London & The SE…

By Schwyz

Elephant – re: Metrolink expansion. The original plans date well back to the 1990s, way before MediaCity was a twinkle in anyone’s eyes. Pragmatism was behind the expansion corridor routes: they were largely railway corridors that could be re-used for less £, and the City Council’s choice otherwise was less new Metrolink miles longer timescales to deliver entirely new infrastructure. The original plan was also to build all of the new lines in one go (‘the Big Bang’) in time for CG2002 but Central Govt got nervous & effectively blocked that.

By MancLad

Liverpool’s deep-level underground lines pre-date London’s, and the world’s first passenger railway was mostly paid for and promoted by Liverpool merchants. It actually won’t take that much public investment to extend our underground. The investment will pay back quickly and will cost much less than Manchester’s metrolink. We built a lot of rail tunnels in the 19th century that are just waiting to be reused!

By Altmouth

“Liverpool would do well out of a capital located in Manchester.” – Rooney

Can you put some meat on the bones of that assertion?

By Deebee

Meat on the bones is that the two places are half an hour apart (33 minutes currently). Manchester wouldn’t have the capacity to accommodate all of the businesses and people that such a move would entail. It would likely accelerate the improvement of intercity links.

By Rooney

We’ll get the intercity links anyway on our own merit without Manchester.

By Altmouth

And Liverpool will be the more attractive location for investors.

By Altmouth

It would be great if government infrastructure was split between all the northern cities, with perhaps an administrative centre in Manchester and/or London. We can only dream.

By Anonymous

“Meat on the bones is that the two places are half an hour apart (33 minutes currently). Manchester wouldn’t have the capacity to accommodate all of the businesses and people that such a move would entail. It would likely accelerate the improvement of intercity links.”

Hmmm. Maybe we should look at the evidence currently on offer? Manchester is doing very well in a number of sectors? What impact has that had on businesses that are/were located in Liverpool? Media City – how has that impacted on Liverpool’s TV production? How has the building of production studios impacted on Liverpool’s efforts to build a studio of its own? Or a post production eco-system? Maybe, we should look at the Games industry – a historic strength of Liverpool. How has Media City affected that?

How about the commercial office market? Manchester can’t build them fast enough. Liverpool can’t turn their’s into residential quick enough. Is there any relationship between the two?

How about the airport? Has the continued growth of Manchester Airport positively or negatively affected Liverpool Airport’s progress?

How about transport investment? Materials science? Concert venues? Financial services?

No doubt Manchester is getting twitch about Liverpool’s recent progress in medical. It’s got it’s own biotech sector to push.

I’m struggling to think of one sector in Liverpool which has benefitted from Manchester’s recent growth. Genuine question – can you name any?

By Deebee

It’s simple Manchester gets the meat and the rest get the bones, that’s what most posters from Manchester fail to appreciate and then ridicule other posters for standing up for their own area.

By Man on bicycle

Manclad.I know the Metrolink started in the 90s,but its extentions in my views are down to the need to get people to the BBC from their houses.There was no economic reason for a line to Eccles,before the Airport.

By Elephant

There is a very good overview of the disdain and obstructiveness shown by central government towards Manchester and the intense lobbying and jumping through hoops that the city had to go through just to get its Metrolink extensions back on track, chronicled here in the following evening news article from the mid noughties

Contrast this with Liverpool which has had much of its investment handed to it on a plate – the massive investment in its loop and link lines and the on-going operating subsidy paid to Merseytravel which is greater than any other franchise in the country. Everywhere else seems to have to make their transport appraisals stack up in cost and benefit terms. Why does Liverpool think it should be a special case? Talk about arrogance.

By Ruth Kelly Not

@Deebee Port of Liverpool one of the biggest in Europe that caters for all of the Uk exports imports from around the world even probably the tea you drink ,
Manchester Airport increase in passengers due to people from all over the world coming to visit the beautiful city of Liverpool-not the ugly sister down the M62
Cultural impact that Liverpool has is second to none .
Manchester Airport that should be called Cheshire Airport
You can say what you want but Manchester will never get the international recognition as Liverpool has made for itself -That’s called history my friend something that Manchester will never have , only for Liverpool Manchester would cease to exist !!!!

By Thishadtobeajoke

@Deeber Interesting ?Manchester needs Liverpool more than Liverpool needs Manchester.
Everyone would welcome more jobs (Manchester too) but let’s not forget the already 10,000 hi-tech Bio-science jobs announced this June for Liverpool; or the investment Bill Gates puts into LSTM; or that Liverpool remains the second wealth management city in the nation beating Leeds, Edinburgh, and errr Manchester (significantly)! Even ‘Manchesters’ Co-Op (sorry Rochdale) has its Financial Services based in Skelmersdale (not the Bank HQ); and M&S Financial at Chester, Alliance & Leicester in Bootle. Or the fact the Centre for Cites research puts Liverpool at the centre of the nation’s second science cluster, based upon aerospace, chemicals, bio life and medical sciences, and new vehicle research (JLR have announced major investment in electric vehicles); with Daresbury, Preston, Runcorn, and Warrington surrounding and sharing expertise. Liverpool has headed the entrepreneurial city list for the last two years ( ). This before we mention CV-Library’s research showing Liverpool’s job growth rate at 45%, or Liverpool Waters, the Knowledge Quarter, the 30 acre Paddington Health science park, the Cruise Terminal expansion, the fact Royal College of Physicians has chosen Liverpool ahead of Manchester and Leeds for its northern HQ, or that Liverpool already hosts several Japanese European headquarters. Also not mentioned is Liverpool’s food industry; not the classy restaurants and the dockside cafe; but an industry that vital to the nation. Five of the Europe’s top container shipping lines are based in Liverpool, one moving its HQ out of London. We all know about lie, lies and statistics; but Liverpool resident earnings overtook those of Manchester before 2010 and have maintained an annual increase. THIS is just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t matter that thousands of jobs will be created in Tourism (yippee); and that means more hotels, restaurants, taxis, shops, and city events etc, etc (yippee), all those scientists, researchers, and hi-tech managers and employees will all need houses too.
One must know how a city works before one dismisses it. Wake up, Liverpool is a very different city than it was 5, or 20, or 50 years ago. Long may it succeed,……..and Manchester too, and Warrington, and Blackburn with its 4,000 holes.
Those who seem to want Liverpool to fail, think again, for if it were too; the entire northwest of England would suffer economically.

By Fran

@Deebee Not to mention the extremely successful International Business Festival held already twice in Liverpool with another pencilled in , drawing business and investment to the Uk as a whole including Manchester .

By Fran

Fran, you have copied and pasted that comment on about 6 articles. Do you work for LCC?

By Rhino

I think those trotting out Liverpool’s successes need to step back and pause for a moment. There’s no light to be shed on a debate by responding tribally. It should be obvious to anyone who read my earlier posts that I am a supporter of Liverpool. It is why I challenged Rooney. But to make out that all is rosy in the garden is wilful blindness flying in the face of the truth.

As a general principle let’s not trumpet jobs that have not happened yet. 5000 jobs at Liverpool Waters? Last time I looked Liverpool Waters was a set of architectural drawings. They have yet to put a spade in the ground on anything. And even if they do, it’ll be decades before it resembles anything like the ‘plans’. The cruise terminal? Still a twinkle in the council’s eye. The Paddington Knowledge Quarter? Sure that is promising, but right now it’s a former school wasteland with a promise to relocate from one Royal College.

And great, Liverpool gets to be a tourism hotspot. But mostly low paid jobs. The port? They don’t employ many people any more. Even when they are ‘super’.

Liverpool wants and needs to move up the value chain with many more highly skilled jobs. The idea that Rooney propagates – that somehow Liverpool will benefit from Manchester’s rise, just doesn’t seem to stack up. Unless, of course your vision of the future is a a high-rise, high wage Manchester, with Liverpool residents commuting for lack of opportunity in their own area.

By Deebee

Thisastobeajoke says Manchester has no history. Two cities. One built on the slave trade.One the centre of the greatest social reforms this country has ever seen. I think you need to think before you speak.

By Elephant

Leeds is the financial capital of the North and has by far the highest standard of living of the major cities.

By Soad

DeeBee.. YES, demand to Liverpool’s cheap airport, tourist numbers, property values, and office demand, along with investment intercity transport links, all increased when the UK Government relocated to half an hour away. Remember?

Oh wait, that hasn’t happened yet, so all of your examples are meaningless.

By Rooney

Leeds ? lol

By Jan

“Thisastobeajoke says Manchester has no history. Two cities. One built on the slave trade.One the centre of the greatest social reforms this country has ever seen. I think you need to think before you speak.”

TWO cities built on the slave trade, if you want to look at it like that.

By Rooney

It won’t happen, reign it in, you’re all getting giddy over nothing.

By John.

OK, I can see it’s pointless trying to have a meaningful discussion in here. As you were …

By Deebee

The Manchester merchants knew their cotton goods paid for slaves and they were complicit. Just as Liverpool was the first in many areas of social reform. First public medical officer of health; Eleanor Rathbone, etc. But this is a pointless arguments. Of course both cities have history.
Perhaps a line should be drawn under this article as it’s going nowhere. Perhaps the point has been made that Liverpool does not see itself as second to Manchester, it demands equal treatment from government, and will always contest any scheme to make Manchester dominant in the north.

By Altmouth

There is credence in what Rooney says of course,but there is a reason why Manchester has a statue of Abraham Lincoln.If I listed Manchester’s historical significance to this country’s development,we would be here all day.To say that is has no history,is quite simply the most ridiculous post I have ever read on here.Everything from Trade Unions,the emancipation of women,Alan Turing’s work,the splitting of the atom,to the building of the first functioning computer,to winning more Nobel prizes,than some of the most developed nations on the planet.There is also the initiation of Free trade and the epicentre of the Industrial revolution,with the Irwell valley the richest river valley,the world has ever seen.I do not like these Manc/Scouse cockpit sessions to be honest,but to say Manchester has no history! You may as well say that Rome has no history too.

By Elephant

Manchester is already dominant in the North and Liverpool is just a whisper.


I think it might be argued that any of Manchesters past social achievements may have been sullied by the present administrations cosying up with the past and present tory governments, one of the most punitive and regressive administrations in its actions and laws against the working classes and benefit dependents. Not to mention Cllr Leeses, refusal on a recent NWT programme refusing to comment on the current Chinese human rights history, but praising the investment. I am sure some of the great radicals of the past must be turning intheir graves.

By Man on bicycle

I think the world knows that Liverpool doesn’t whisper (joke)
‘Fraid the argument won’t go away…

By Altmouth

If only

By Tuesday

Why not just rebrand the NorthWest as Mancpool or Liverchester, and be done with all the bickering.

By Simon de Montfort

What,and spoil all this fun?

By Emperor of the North

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