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SHOULD THERE BE AN ELECTED regional government for the North West?

THE M56 is the Manchester to Chester motorway - If we were in the States it would probably be called 'The Garden County Freeway' or possibly 'Turnpike' if it charged a toll. The North West has one of the best developed motorway networks of any part of the UK. The M56, M6, M53, M55, M57, M58, M60, M602, M65, M66, M67 not to mention the A57(M), the A627(M) and the forerunner of them all, the A580 East Lancs Road, are evidence of the economic importance of the region, with its densely populated industrial and residential areas.

And yet despite the favourable transport links, the wide industrial base and the skilled and generally hard-working population, the North West region is poorer, has higher unemployment and fewer job opportunities than the south eastern corner of the country.

An elected North West regional government is necessary in order to redress this imbalance, and turn our region from a forgotten corner 200+ miles up the motorway into a major focus of the UK and the EU.

LIVERPOOL has the most magnificent waterfront of any UK city. Its civic buildings are testament to the power and importance of Liverpool in past times and to its heritage and character which looks outwards across the sea rather than inland.

But this world-renowned city has suffered more than most from the problems of post-industrial decline. Its substantial net loss of population is the most telling statistic. But Liverpool has been fighting back and no greater evidence of its success is the title of European Capital of Culture, which Liverpool has secured for the year 2008.

What better way of consolidating the regeneration of Liverpool than by making it into the joint capital of the North West Region alongside Manchester.

ROCK LIGHTHOUSE stands at the entrance to the Mersey estuary, marking the arrival and departure of ships travelling to and from many parts of the globe. Relatively few ships come up as far as Liverpool waterfront today, but we shouldn't forget that Bootle Docks, visible here across the estuary, are among the busiest and most successful in the UK.

Liverpool has many Irish connections. It's twinned with Dublin, just four hours away via the Super Seacat. The Republic of Ireland, with just half the population of our region, provides a very good example of how an independent government operating within the EU can bring enormous benefits to an economically depressed area on the periphery of Europe.

Unlike the Irish Dáil, the North West Government would share its power with a national government at higher level, but would 'Home Rule' for the North West within the context of the EU provide an engine of success as powerful as the 'Celtic Tiger'.

A FLAG FOR NORTH WEST ENGLAND was designed by Peter Saville, renowned for his 1980's album covers for New Order and honoured with a retrospective exhibition currently at the Urbis Centre. Asked by Tony Wilson, co-founder of the Necessary Group, to design a North West flag, Peter took only a few minutes to come up with the idea, which involves zooming into the top left hand corner of the existing English flag. He says he wanted to do something subversive and thought-provoking which would stimulate debate, and he has certainly achieved that. Whether it will be adopted as the official flag remains to be seen.

I was commissioned by Tony Wilson to photograph the flag for the press launch of the Necessary Group website. As there was no wind on the day, I photographed the flag hanging down, then placed it against a blue sky and a local background - the view from Werneth Low featured earlier. I replaced the dirty flagpole with a clean one taken from a photo of the Irish flag in Dublin.

Should the North West have its own elected regional government, and should this be its official flag?

Keep visiting Eyewitness in Manchester for more information and opinion on this important issue, and to keep up to date with the changing face of the city.

All photos and articles © Aidan O'Rourke

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