Leading article: Second best?

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The Independent Online

It is not hard to guess where the urban loyalties of the former trade minister Digby Jones (now formally known as Lord Jones of Birmingham) lie. So when he points out that Birmingham is in danger of losing its unofficial title of "second city" to Manchester it is clear he does not see this as a welcome development.

Lord Jones's fears seem to have been prompted by the successes of Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs at the weekend. But a spokesman for Birmingham Chamber of Commerce pointed out yesterday that the city still has the second-highest GDP in the country.

This highlights the problem of this exercise: what criteria are to be used for a comparison? Soap operas? Coronation Street rules supreme and Crossroads is a distant memory. Universities? Manchester is the largest in the UK. Yet is population to be the measure? If so, Birmingham is twice as large as its northern rival. As for canals, not even Venice (let alone Manchester) can match the Midlands conurbation.

So perhaps the mystery is: why are Manchester and Birmingham scrapping it out for second place? With a choice of bragging criteria, they could raise their sights even higher. Let London watch its back: civic pride to the north of the capital should know no limits.

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