Throughout the last three decades efforts to regenerate British cities have been based around the construction of new institutional alliances and policy networks supported by a series of urban-based initiatives. Successive conservative governments premised their intervention on the assumption that cities (and particular parts therein) were the most appropriate geographical level around which to organise policy intervention. In pursuing this city-based agenda, the policies were themselves instrumental in constituting the city as an object of policy: a problem in need of a solution. The aim of this paper, however, is not to explore how certain spaces or scales become constructed through, for example, government policy, political practices or state restructuring. Rather the paper augments work conducted on the socially constructed nature of 'cities' and 'regions'. It explores for regeneration policy and politics the implications of the tendential shift away from a model of 'new localism' towards an alternative model of 'new regionalism'. The origins of the central element of New Labour's emergent regional project - the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) - are established before the paper moves on to examine the likely political relationships between the local state, drawing upon the example of Manchester, and the regional state, drawing upon North West England, under the new institutional arrangements. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.