Birmingham has laid claim to one of the best addresses in London and vowed to rid itself of the "irrelevant" second city title.

Mike Whitby, leader of the city council, marked the official opening of Birmingham W1 - the Birmingham office in London - with a passionate appeal to forget about regional rivalries and concentrate instead on selling Birmingham.

Coun Whitby said the opening of the office, in Piccadilly, signified a new era in which the city's case for regeneration and economic development would be taken to the movers and shakers of government.

He said: "We will be able to look London in the eye and tell them what Birmingham really stands for."

He told 150 guests at the opening of the new office, in a highly-personal interpretation of the Birmingham message: "Let us forget the nonsense about how much better we are than anyone else. We are relevant because we are good."

The Birmingham Embassy, as it has been dubbed, will be fully staffed by the council and open five days a week at a cost of about £250,000 a year.

It will act as a policybashing venue where council leaders will be able to talk head to head with government and private-sector advisers.

The premises will also be available for Birminghambased businesses to use when entertaining clients in London.

Coun Whitby was at pains to emphasise that Birmingham W1 should not be seen solely as a lobbying exercise.

He said: "It is far more sophisticated that that. It is about helping to inform government policy and decision making."

Coun Whitby said he developed the idea for a London office soon after becoming council leader in June 2004.

He added: "People in the private sector were asking me what the council was going to do to get Birmingham's message across where it matters, in London. This was the obvious solution.

"Ultimately, the office in London is about the relevance of our city. It is remarkable how we are viewed more positively in Europe and internationally than we are in London and the UK." The council leader identified two areas where the London office would be of immediate value.

He wants to gather support for a Birmingham underground railway and a second runway at Birmingham International Airport.

Expansion of BIA was essential for Birmingham and the city region, he said.

Economic development and job creation was dependent on attracting international investment.

Coun Whitby said: "Unless major international investors can fly to where they want to invest, they don't think you are a major investment zone." He said he hoped the long-term success of Birmingham W1 would be to overcome the "stereo typical prejudices" thrown against Birmingham.

Coun Whitby said: "We will know we have succeeded when every petty villain or social failure on a TV drama no longer automatically speaks with a Birmingham accent.

"The message we have to get across is that Birmingham is a diverse, vibrant city region with an £80 billion economy."