By Sarah Lagan
The weekly North West Enquirer launched this week with a hard-hitting exclusive interview with Tory leader David Cameron and a picture of Tony Blair reading a copy of the paper.
The new region-wide compact contacted Cameron during the Conservatives’ spring conference in Manchester, and parliamentary reporter Matthew George later secured an interview.
In the front-page article — released to Press Gazette exclusively ahead of the Enquirer’s launch on Thursday — Cameron talked about how he felt Blair has failed the Northwest.
He said: "In Manchester, people are more likely to die of cancer or heart disease, council tax is high and violent crime is rising and primary school results are below average.
"Labour has failed cities like Manchester and Liverpool, and I am changing the Conservative Party to get it back into our cities."
Cameron also spoke of his desire to see elected mayors in regional cities and of how the British National Party was posing an increasing threat.
Enquirer editor Bob Waterhouse said: "It’s something we had been pursuing for weeks and luckily we made it. We got the photograph of Blair with the Enquirer when he was in Manchester earlier this week with a copy of the dummy."
Waterhouse insists the paper does not back any political party. He said: "As a regional paper, we will cover what politicians are doing in the region. We would take a line against the BNP.
There are over 50 BNP candidates standing in the local elections in the region — the east Lancashire, Oldham and Rochdale areas.
"Obviously you cannot just say it is a nuisance because they are targeting seats with a high Asian or immigrant population, so we would take a direct line on the BNP, but not on the Tories, Labour or Lib Dems. We would publish BNP comments, but not their material."
Waterhouse said the design of the paper, which aims for an up-market readership across Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, comes closest to Scottish Sundays such as the Herald with a classic, yet modern look.
The paper aims to give pictures prominence on the page and there will be a Guardian-style centre spread picture each week called The Big Picture.
Another centre spread, The Main Event, will cover big events in the news and arts.
The paper will also run two pages from the International Herald Tribune, which Waterhouse believes could be a first for a regional paper.
Award-winning journalist Peter Sharples, who took voluntary redundancy from the Manchester Evening News after 30 years at the paper, is due to write a column on personal finance.