Yesterday I had lunch with Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council. I get on great with SHB, he's a straight up bloke who does everything with the best interests of the long term improvement of Manchester in mind. We disagree on a few things, I'm still appalled that a congestion charge would be introduced to pay for better transport, for example.
But he shares my biggest frustration about Manchester: people think it's a slam dunk, job done ; that everything is rosy and heading in the right direction. He senses other authorities trying to claw Manchester back - like over the decision to award a casino. He too is acutely aware of how the international competition to Manchester as a place to visit, locate and attract business is constantly innovating and improving. He's currently very excited about Stockholm.
The international theme of our next edition of North West Business Insider magazine follows this idea through.
SHB is also the chief returning officer for Manchester. He had just come away from a meeting where the election date of November the 8th was discussed. It clashes with the switching on of the Christmas lights, but it is the date they are expecting to be announced on Tuesday. This is the nightmare scenario for the Conservatives, and a supreme piece of political stage management from Gordon Brown. He is breaking with the Blair era, getting a mandate before some tough economic medicine is needed next year (tax rises) and he has an opportunity to split the Tories and finish them off for another generation.