Labour's Andy Burnham is on manoeuvres but is not the only 'King of the North' - Anthony Clavane

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Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham.

Leeds Marriott Hotel will be hosting a new comic-con next month. There will be special appearances by Game of Thrones stars Ian Gelder, Eugene Simon and Roger Ashton-Griffiths.

And, of course, Andy Burnham.

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I’m joking. But, then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ubiquitous politician, well known for his role as King of the North in the hit HBO series (sorry, I mean the Labour Party conference) joins them at the Leeds Unleashed event.

There is a tradition of politicians being compared to superheroes. American presidents have particularly enjoyed strutting their stuff as heroic characters destined to save the world; both John F Kennedy and Donald Trump – who, after his coronavirus recovery, wanted to rip open his shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt – saw themselves as caped crusaders flying to their beleaguered nation’s rescue.

Jeremy Corbyn – remember him? – liked to think of himself as a latter-day Robin Hood, taking from The Few and giving to The Many. And, when he talked about breaking out of the European Union’s “manacles”, Boris Johnson bizarrely invoked The Incredible Hulk.

As for Keir Starmer, well the rumour doing the rounds for a few years – put out, one suspects, by his acolytes – was that the dashing Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones films, was inspired by the Labour leader. The author of the Bridget books, Helen Fielding, used to live in Morley and apparently knew Starmer when he was studying at Leeds University.

Voters are rightly sceptical of such comparisons. They merely reinforce the perception that our leaders are all vain, attention-seeking narcissists. As if.

Personally, I am very sceptical of Burnham’s claims to be King of the North.

To the unitiated, the American fantasy drama series Game of Thrones dominated the TV landscape during the last decade. After bringing together the northern lords against the threat of the deadly White Walkers, hero Jon Snow was given the title King in the North.

For the past week in Brighton, Burnham has appeared to be on manoeuvres, positioning himself as the heir to Keir Starmer.

Not for the first time the Greater Manchester mayor, and his supporters, have used the moniker King of the North. They have substituted “of” for “in”, but the intention is clear.

The People’s Andy repeatedly claimed he had no ambitions to return to Westminster and take over as Starmer’s successor. As if.

The former Health Secretary has spent his time wooing activists at conference fringe meetings. He has made some criticisms of Starmer’s approach. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But that dreaded phrase has been used so many times, becoming the focus of a series of memes from social media users. And there is a great deal wrong with that.

As Kevin Maguire wrote in the Daily Mirror: “The King of the North swaggered into town making no secret of his hope to also rule England’s South, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too. He has the aura of a man with a little power who’d like more...”

His supporters argue that he was given the moniker last year after challenging Johnson over the coronavirus clampdown.

Yet he has enthusiastically taken it on board. He has frequently mentioned it at launches, talked about it in interviews and joked about a future kingdom north of the “blue wall”.

Next week he will attend the Conservative conference alongside other northern leaders to discuss “levelling up”. He will be accompanied by fellow mayors Dan Jarvis and Tracy Brabin.

They have been just as active in standing up for northern areas marginalised for decades. All the profile writers, political commentators and media pundits lauding Burnham seem to believe, however, that Manchester is the unofficial capital city of the north.

As usual, they have an obsession with all things Manc. To them, it is obviously the most important place outside London.

Jarvis and Brabin are as committed as Burnham to fighting the huge inequalities between the north and south. But they have been ignored because they are not on manoeuvres.

And, more pertinently, Jarvis represents South Yorkshire and Brabin represents West Yorkshire.

Burnham is not the only king – or indeed queen – defending the north.