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Leeds v Manc, Government & BBC Bias. The Economic Truth

Should you wish not to wade through my chuntering rant, the economics are highlighted in red below.

Prologue: What follows is the script for a film I never made, proving that, contrary to BBC (hereafter known as the Manchester Marketing Board) and government propaganda, Leeds is, unquestionably, ‘the economic powerhouse of the North’. I argue this to still be true, even though I’d estimate the political bias of those two institutions to be worth billions of pounds to the Manchester economy over that of Leeds. The film was to be a development of an article I wrote for Sabotage Times in response to the lovely Evan Davis’s ridiculous, fictional two part BBC film Mind the Gap.

Due to time and other projects, I’m never going to get chance to make the film but with the constant, recent, nonsensical chuntering of deceitful Osbourne and his BBC collaborators I thought I’d better put the basic economics, that they lie about, back out there.

The essay, also includes a quick shufty at the incredible governmental and BBC Manc bias. It affects our lives; the Leeds train line electrification was moth-balled for purely political reasons, while the Manchester electrification was never in question. Electrifying the line between Manc and Liverpool rather than Leeds would have been politically motivated, economic insanity… And before anyone says, ‘Yeh, but they’re investing in the new Southern entrance to Leeds train station’ bear in mind that just the roof of the revamped Manchester Victoria station is more expensive than the whole Leeds development, or at least equivalent, and the whole Manc revamp is £44 million compared to Leeds £17 million.

The economic facts I cite later were from 18 months ago but, frankly, I haven’t got time or energy to dig around for another two weeks and they’re still relevant as I doubt they’ll have changed significantly, even with all the extra cash the government and BBC constantly pump into Manchester.

Beauitful Leeds skyline snapped by Mick

Here we go, the script as was.

We as a nation have been brainwashed by the BBC to think of Manchester as the UK’s second city. Can I just tell you that the city of Manchester is less than half the size of the UK’s actual second city, Birmingham? Leeds is half again the size of Manchester; Glasgow and Sheffield are certainly bigger, and it can be argued that Bradford is also larger. By population, Manchester is the UK’s sixth, seventh or even ninth city.

Yet whenever anyone at the BBC lists big UK cities they always start, ‘London, Manchester’; they often simply stop there; sometimes they add others. But that’s a lie, propaganda the BBC have been peddling for at least five decades. Who knows why? That’s for another time. The UK’s biggest cities in order are London, Birmingham and Leeds, yet you would never hear that factually correct list and you would never hear a BBC list of big cities that left out Manchester, yet they almost always leave out bigger cities like Sheffield, Glasgow and Leeds. This is a direct insult to those other British cities, and it matters.

Graphic from Mind the Gap: Evan must’ve been pulling his hair out when he saw that techies added a

simple population graphic that destroyed two hours of silly propaganda.

The BBC hate Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham. Maybe hate’s too strong a word, they treat Leeds (the actual capital of the North) with the same arrogant, ignorant disdain as they do Bristol, Newcastle, Swansea, Glasgow, Sheffield, Coventry or Hull. They disrespect all the great British provincial cities barring Manchester, which in government and BBC land, as their investment and output show, is the only city, outside London, that counts.

When the BBC Manchester Marketing Board do general reporting that could be done from anywhere, it’s almost always Manchester, Salford or London. Have a listen to 5 live or watch BBC Breakfast – it’s scandalous. 'I’m at a nursery in Salford’; ‘I’m on the streets of Manchester asking people if ghosts should have the same pension rights as the living’.

Some might argue this BBC Manchester bias is simply about location, time restrictions and workloads. I think it’s about prejudice and lazy journalism, and it means I never hear my favourite UK accent on the Beeb cos they never report from Nottingham.

The BBC is a huge organisation so why not use the BBC in Hull, Bristol, Sheffield, Swansea, Glasgow or Birmingham to do some of these straightforward, general vox pops or perhaps travel somewhere and get to know the nation? The UK isn’t just London/Manchester/Salford, and how long would it take them to get from Salford to Sheffield, Leeds or Liverpool? Maybe an hour?

I’m now going to turn my ire to Evan Davis and his ridiculous, dishonest Mind the Gap programme, a glaring piece of Manchester-loving BBC propaganda. The programme looked at how the rest of the UK can compete with the economic powerhouse of London. Constantly name dropping Manchester, he managed not to mention Leeds at all in the first programme, leading to his very biased conclusion in the second that only Manchester could compete with London and is really the UKs second city (which the cheeky Manc scamps have started officially, if completely inaccurately, calling themselves) which when you look at the economic evidence is simply preposterous, it’s as real world as the Wizard of Oz.

With Evan being the former economics editor of the BBC and the programme masquerading as a study of the UK’s economic landscape and trends, you’d have thought he could’ve used some economic smoke and mirrors to peddle his myth. Perhaps a few dodgy facts and statistics. You’d’ve thought so, wun’t you?

I’ve been through the programme with a fine-toothed comb, and what’s the evidence that Evan offers up to defend his assertion that Manchester is the UK’s only economic powerhouse that could compete with London? I’d describe it as non-existent.

Evan noted that Manchester has two top football clubs spreading the name around the world, which is undeniable but hardly a killer economic fact.

He used a blip fact that Manchester was the UK’s quickest growing city. For years of the recent past, that would’ve been Leeds; but, after London, Leeds is the UK’s biggest legal, banking, insurance and financial centre. Up until the economic crash of 2008 Leeds had the fastest jobs growth of all the Core Cities, but the crash hit the city hard and Leeds lost 19,000 jobs. But Leeds is recovering strongly and the 2011 Office for National Statistics population projections show that between 2011 and 2021 Leeds is expected to increase by around 88,885 compared with 29,281 for Manchester.

Leeds’ population growth is predicted to be 11.8% while Manchester’s is 5.8%. Fact 2: cleverly chosen to mislead.

His next fact is that the UK population think of Manchester as the UK’s second city. Of course they do, y’ fool, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that means nothing. The BBC are by far the UK’s most powerful and trusted media organisation, they’ve been lying and telling us all our lives that Manchester is the UKs second city, so we obviously reflect that back to them. Fact 3 is irrelevant and illogical and simply backs up my argument about the effect of decades of BBC, Manchester-loving propaganda.

So with all his researchers and two hours of air-time what was Evan’s last killer economic indicator? Well, apparently, Manchester can support a hub. And how do we know that? Because the BBC created one there. Evan, the BBC could set up its second biggest UK site on the Isle of Skye and it would create a hub; related services and businesses would cluster around it at the bottom of a coal mine.

And other than hot air and blather, that was it. Those were his four, wholly irrelevant facts. So, Evan, here are some actual economic facts for you that show that perhaps Manchester isn’t the UK’s second powerhouse economy.

Leeds is over half again the size of Manchester with a bigger and more successful economy. The Leeds City Region has an economy bigger than Wales and accounts for 5% of the UK’s national economy – a quarter of that of London.

Right, I’m going to have to use a techy economics term, GVA, which stands for Gross Value Added and is basically the net value of produced goods and services.

Figures for the GVA of the city of Manchester are not available and would be utterly dwarfed by Leeds, but in 2012, the GVA of Greater Manchester was almost £51 billion, compared to over £55 billion for the Leeds City Region.

Leeds and West Yorkshire have higher GVA per employee and per hour worked than Greater Manchester.

The 2012 GVA per filled job in Leeds was £43,400 compared with £42,300 for Greater Manchester South and £36,400 for Greater Manchester North – so £43,400 compared to somewhere around £39,350.

Leeds is the largest legal centre outside London and has over 122,000 people working in banking, finance and insurance, the largest number of any UK city bar London.

Just over 250,000 people work in Manchester compared to 462,600 in Leeds.

For the year ending December 2013:

  • 75.5% of the Leeds population aged 16-64 were economically active, compared with 68.9% in Manchester.

  • People living in Leeds earned an average of £414 a week as opposed to £367 for Mancunians.

  • The employment rate was 68.2% in Leeds compared with 61.7% in Manchester.

Leeds has lower unemployment at 9.6% compared to Manchester’s 11.9%.

In 2012 14% of children in Leeds were in workless households compared with 28% in Manchester.

I don’t really want to get into levels of deprivation cos it makes me sad but trust me, levels of deprivation and hardship are way, way higher in Manchester than in Leeds.

The 2012 Business Register and Employment Survey data shows that for the 14 major UK employment centres, Leeds had the most diverse economy while Manchester was 12th out of 14.

194,400 Leeds employees were in knowledge-based industries, compared with 184,200 in Manchester.

36,500 people in Leeds were in the creative industries, compared with 25,700 in Manchester.

In Leeds 22% of jobs were public sector, compared with 25% in Manchester.

Leeds had 25,100 active enterprises, compared with 16,940 in Manchester.

40.4% of businesses in Leeds were over 10 years old, compared with 36.4% in Manchester.

You getting bored yet, cos I’ve got loads?

Leeds is the UK’s fourth biggest incubator of high growth companies behind Westminster, Camden and Birmingham. Manchester din’t make the top five.

Research just published by DTZ Global has Leeds topping the list of the UK’s most attractive cities for commercial property investment – Leeds is forecast to see the highest rental and capital growth going up to 2018.

Price Waterhouse Coopers have just announced that Leeds topped a list of 500 town centres across Great Britain for the highest net number of shop openings whilst Manchester came 102nd. I’ll just repeat, Evan, Leeds came first nationally for retail openings and Manchester came 102nd.

As the tossers will undoubtedly do the Manc line first, I’ll end with the fact that the Eastern leg of the HS2 high-speed railway between the West Midlands and Leeds has double the Benefit Cost Ratio of the Western leg to Manchester.

Now I respect and like Evan very much, he is undoubtedly a fabulous journalist and I expect this to be an aberration. Although I suspect he’s been infected by the institutional prejudice that the BBC Manchester Marketing Board hold against all our other great cities. I also find it shocking that none of the people working on the show pointed out that it was indefensible, prejudiced bollocks but they’ve got careers and they’re not going to question the Manchester Marketing board marketing Manchester. The BBC? Objective? Not when it comes to Manchester.

But if someone as knowledgeable as Evan can get it so wrong it simply adds power to the myth-making argument, the self-fulfilling prophecy. Say that Manchester is the UKs second most important city often enough and – true or objectively false – it becomes so.

I got a couple of direct Twitter responses from Evan himself regarding the Sabotage Times article, who, although he’d discuss it in great detail with nutters, didn’t want to go into the details with me. Hardly surprising as the programme’s Manchester plugging was indefensible and twisted reality to breaking point, and I was dealing in facts, not fiction.

It is not my opinion, assertion or guess work that the BBC over-represent Manchester, it is objective, measurable fact. Here’s a job for media students up at Trinity and All Saints in Horsforth, a bit of content analysis for y. Go through BBC news and current affairs content (it’s all online), have a list of major UK cities excluding London and give each city 1 point when the city is mentioned, 2 when they use an expert from that city and 3 points for when they do a feature or news item from there.

Even if you remove football related stuff, Manchester will still beat the whole of the rest of the UK’s provincial cities combined. Never mind that, I think that Manchester would get double or treble the score of all the rest put together.

And it matters, it’s not just a lie, it’s dangerous to the rest of our cities. For example, every time BBC Breakfast use an academic expert from Manchester or Salford University it gives those unis a plug and cements them as ‘superior’ unis. As it’s absolutely constant, the drip, drip, drip effect gives them an unfair advantage over the rest of the UK universities in all sorts of ways.

Every time BBC 5 live speak to an expert from a private company in Salford or Manchester it’s a invaluable advert to millions of listeners – this company is to be trusted – and gives it a massive competitive edge over the equivalent company in Birmingham or Edinburgh. Large companies may even take it into account when deciding where to locate, free publicity from the BBC being way more valuable than a paid ad.

The BBC still perpetuate their North-South divide, it’s just that Manchester has become part of the South; they’ve annexed it. The North isn’t like London or the South. What are the big cities of the South? London and... where? Cambridge? Brighton? Places with less than half the population of Wakefield. The north is a series of comparatively big, proud cities, Sheffield, Salford, Hull, Bradford, Liverpool, Newcastle. We don’t need a capital but if the southerners want to create one, objectively, it has to be Leeds.

A little trick the BBC like to do while constantly marketing Manchester is use facts and figures for the city when they’re actually talking about Greater Manchester, which is a type of county similar to the West Midlands or West Yorkshire and not the city of Manchester. God knows how Greater Manchester was sneaked past the people of Salford or Bolton but I do know if you tried to create a Greater Birmingham or Greater Leeds the proud people of Bradford, Coventry, Wakefield or Wolverhampton would be rioting on the streets.

The BBC head the biased Southern news, media (and government) agenda: Manchester is obviously the most important place in the North. Why? Because they visit there and they’re important, sophisticated, cosmopolitan London types, so obviously, in their arrogant heads, they go to the most important sophisticated, cosmopolitan place.

This BBC Manchester bias has been going on all my life. Even before they moved to Manchester they were London and Manchester centric, because they don’t know the North or the rest of the nation and they can’t be arsed finding out about us. We don’t count. You don’t count.

So, Evan, without the research capacity of the BBC, I’ve given you a fairly extensive list of economic indicators to show that Leeds is much better placed to be the UK’s second city. Now my challenge to you is deal directly with my economic figures and explain, objectively, why Manchester is the only viable option to be the UK’s second city. Other than irrelevant hyperbole (the BBC’s gone there) do you have any hard economics to back up your Manchester claim? Any at all? You had months of researchers time, two hours of TV and yet showed none. Why? Was it because they don’t exist?

That’s the thing with economics, you can count and measure things to come to some form of objectivity… I just did, why didn’t the BBC?

I don’t know if the BBC has got institutional Tourettes or whether they’re simply employing subliminal messaging: ‘The Mars Rover is currently hurtling off into space having left Manchester’s orbit’; ‘Yeti, Sasquatch, Bigfoot – are they real? We went onto to the streets of Salford to find out’; ‘The Pope’s South American tour ended in Rio today, with him probably thinking about Manchester’.

I’m not knocking Manchester – don’t tell anyone but some of my best friends are Mancunians – I’m attacking the BBC’s constant bias in favour of Manchester. When it comes to the UK’s great cities the BBC’s output is laced with an incredible prejudice and ignorance.

I pay for the BBC Manchester Marketing Board, as do the citizens of Birmingham, Hull, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow. It’s undemocratic and unfair. We pay for the BBC, so represent us or stop stealing our money. I humbly suggest that for us, the rest of the nation, there should be NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.

So, BBC, lose your Manchester obsession, your Manchester fetish, and come and see the rest of the British cities, we’ve got some belters, you might even like them and see some actual sophistication.

There’s a reason Leeds is by far the most congested city in the UK and has the worst public transport of all the UK’s major cities – the UK’s third biggest city by population, second by area doesn’t even have trams, fo’ fucks sake. Because of constant Westminster underinvestment in my fabulous city, Leeds is Europe’s largest city without a modern transport system. Our very small tram system (which we even down-graded t trolley-bus to try to keep it alive) got moth-balled by Westminster ten years ago. And while London stashes OUR Leeds money and refuses to invest in that single trolley-bus line it invests a further £56 million in tarting up a system that already criss-crosses Manchester, our smaller Lancastrian neighbour. They get the extra luxury of using Oyster Cards on their extensive, modern system while we get fuck all… well we get ignored and growing congestion.

When Osbourne uses the term ‘Northern powerhouse’ he means Manchester, not the North. If you listen closely he sometimes interchanges the two terms.

So I’d like to say to George Osbourne, ‘Stop talking ignorant Northern powerhouse bollocks, Leeds is already the Northern powerhouse, with no help from you. Stop using Leeds money to subsidise the South East and Manchester, don’t give us any cash (as usual) but don’t take any. Give Leeds full independence, we’d be far better off than we are now and this chunk of the world would be a more democratic, fairer place and, without you lot holding us back, we’d reach our actual potential.’

Added Devolution Epilogue: Obviously George Osbourne gave devolution to Manchester first with even more money, as he drags the Chinese President around Manchester flogging them the city for further investment and I doubt he’ll have even mentioned Leeds. If those arrogant, ignorant twats at Westminster try to impose any devolution on us that does not include the word Leeds, I will bitch and spit until my dying day.

What the fuck is Yorkshire to the world? A quaint, gentle, vaguely middle-class, old county of tea and scones and cricket, a James Herriot, Last Of The Summer Wine, Emmerdale theme park with no modernity, no edge, no ‘street’, no big, vibrant, exciting cities. I hate ‘Yorkshire’ – Yorkshire needs Leeds but Leeds dunt need Yorkshire and we need to step out of that sad old shadow.

Ignore the bullshit, Leeds is a big, vibrant, exciting, powerful city and we should recognise that, stop being self-deprecating and flex our muscles before we get fucked over YET AGAIN. We should say ‘Fuck London, this is the Leeds City Region, who’s in?’

Hull, 60 miles away, (and ignored just like Leeds) is already expressing a strong interest in joining Leeds, for example, and I for one would love that fabulous, brother city in our new Leeds City Region, cos unlike London, I give a fuck about Hull, York, Bradford, Barnsley, Wakefield etc.

Anyway, Mr Angry has finished now... pisses me off.

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