A Commonwealth Games for the North — A Vehicle for Infrastructure Investment

Outgoing UK Athletics chief Ed Warner left us with the suggestion that the Birmingham or Liverpool bid for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) should be asking Sadiq Khan to use the London Stadium for athletics. This idea is a great example of London centric thinking, something that has damaged the UK economy and meant it is heavily reliant on London. The reliance on London does not mean we should continue to give it preferential treatment over the rest of the UK. We need to see a Government that governs for the UK and not for London.

Not only would a bid that included athletics at the London Stadium represent capital bias, it would also represent economic stupidity by both Liverpool & Birmingham. If London had the athletics, they would have the showpiece events that would bring in the most attendance and therefore would benefit the host more. Both cities would be to put it bluntly lumbered with the lesser events and not have the benefit of the athletic showpiece event to counterbalance that. There’s a metaphor in there but I will leave you to come up with it.

Past the London centric thinking, the CWG represents a big opportunity for the north of England. The Liverpool bid in particularly should look to use the CWG to force the Government into investing in infrastructure in the north and speed up the investment process.

Liverpool rather than teaming up with London, should look to team up with Manchester and Leeds and specifically detail how the three cities will be better linked up by infrastructure between now and the 2022 games. This will force the Government’s hand and mean they would be pushed to back the bid and also then follow through with the investment should the bid be awarded.

Pushing for investment in the rail route between Liverpool — Manchester — Leeds now is perfect timing. Only last month did Chris Grayling say that not electrifying the whole line between Manchester — Leeds would be ‘smart’ due to the difficulty of putting up electric cables. Yet at the same time London is being dug up for Crossrail. The mind boggles. Andy Burnham, IPPR North, CLES and others should be working together in order to push this as a vehicle for electrifying the route.

Having a CWG that includes both sides of the Pennines would also be massive boast for the north in not just economic terms. It would show the rest of the UK & those outside of it that the north is a place where sports, industry and culture not only exist but thrive. For too long the investment agenda has been weighted towards London, the north is more than happy to welcome southerners! Recently Andy Burnham has become Mayor for Greater Manchester, strong voices such as his and Steve Rotheram in Liverpool should be working closely to give the north a stronger voice. However the CWG is not just about improving the economic fortunes of an area, it’s also about inspiring communities into taking up sports and being more active.

If either the Liverpool bid or the Birmingham one includes the London Stadium, then while we are on let’s move the Great North Run to London. The suggestion by Ed Warner is actually very offensive to the two cities, they exist in their own right and not because of London. The north as a whole also exists in its own right (as much as the Government chooses to ignore it), the UK works best when we recognise the uniqueness of regions. Let’s forget about a London centric agenda before we create even more regional inequality.

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