Good prime ministers seek to negotiate their way out of trouble. From Manchester to Brexit, Johnson is unable to do so

Five million pounds. A huge amount of money. But, in the national scheme of things, £5m is tiny. It amounts to an almost infinitesimal 0.0005% of what the British government budgeted to spend during the current financial year. Spread among the 2.8 million inhabitants of Greater Manchester, £5m works out at £1.78 per head, less than the price of a one-day off-peak travelcard on the city’s trams.

Yet by refusing to come up with this £5m on Tuesday, Boris Johnson’s government finds itself in a state of political warfare with Manchester. More, it stands accused of abandoning a city that has been the cornerstone of Conservative efforts to rebuild the party’s credibility in northern England. Above all, it faces charges that, in their hour of need, it turned its back on the northern voters upon whom Johnson’s party depends. As recent political follies go, this is among the worst – and there is already a bulging shortlist for that award.

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