Thursday, July 23, 2009

Politics can matter

So, this quest for some grown up debate goes on. On Wednesday I chaired a session for Greater Manchester Chamber on what devolved powers Manchester might get under the new city region arrangements.

Here's how it was reported in Insider Daily:

City region status will only benefit Manchester if backed up by the ability to set and keep business rates, a Greater Manchester Chamber event was yesterday told. Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities think tank, said: “It’s meaningless if they don’t have this power, because Manchester is currently too reliant on bodies like the Department for Transport. But a city region can work here for five reasons: strength through collaboration; more efficient public services; a better ability to assess local skills and transport needs; and because of its strong global brand.”

That evening I went to a debate at Manchester Town Hall sponsored by the Independent, entitled Is Our Democracy Under Threat? I haven't located a report anywhere, but it was very well attended and some excellent points were raised by all the panel: Howard Jacobson, Johann Hari, Neil Hamilton and Graham Stringer. Politics, concluded Stringer, matters to people when opinion is polarised. The TIF debate fired people up, he said.

City region powers aren't as exciting as all that - the audience at the Chamber do was about 40 people.

There were about 200 at the Indie debate. And bizarrely, they barely touched on the erosion of civil liberties.

PS - I have actually now found a report, here, but check out the dreadful level of dogma and polemic masquerading as debate. I sensed an undercurrent of this at the debate itself, heckling from the crusties and stoppers.

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