Manchester – a city that deserves so much better

It was lucky we were on the 13th floor.

That far up a Manchester tower block you felt safe; 9/11 wouldn't happen until next year and 13 floors was far enough away from what was occurring down below. There, two youths were pulling handbrake turns in what she, the student who lived in the flat on the 13th floor, said was a stolen car.

We saw the flickering blue light in the distance a good while before we and, presumably, the joyriders heard sirens. By then they'd stoved their hot wheels headlong into a chain link fence, danced free of the wreck and, with manic whooping that was mime to us 13 floors away, torched it. They hung around to watch it burn. The blue light never arrived; not for as long as we watched anyway. It was a Friday night, in England, on the cusp of the 21st century.

Half an hour earlier, I'd suggested a fish supper. You could see the queue for the chippie from the 13th floor. 'Nice one,' she said. 'I'll call a cab.'

That's what you do in that bit of Manchester. Cabs are cheap, drive up close to where the lift spills out, wait while you sprinkle your vinegar, shake your salt and re-wrap a large cod and fifty then drop you back at the lift zone. It costs a couple of quid but is better than a mugging.

After London, where I was born, and Norwich, near where I live, it's still my favourite English city. But for all the supposed regeneration, prawn sandwich football clubs and a newly relocated BBC in spruced up Salford Quays, Manchester remains a place where more children live in severe poverty than anywhere else in Britain. They come from families that have 12 quid a day to spend on everything.

Those of its citizens who are trapped in a terrible cycle of debt, depression and fear deserve a police service that isn't being eviscerated by posh boys in government.

Most Read

One that is better resourced, better run, better respected, more trusted.

One in which it is less necessary to risk the lives of two brave young policewomen.

One that has sufficient force to rid a great city of the gangsters who dine in its flashy restaurants and murderers who haunt its sink estates.