Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Desolation row is gold for North's newspapers

There's nothing quite like a misinformed Southerner slagging off the North-East to get the region galvanised. And if that person is a Tory toff all the better. When I was at The Northern Echo we had all kinds of slurs directed our way. There was the Tory minister who said 'the problem with the North-East is that there are not enough golf courses.' Cue outrage. And when there was a proposal to relocate MoD jobs from London to Teesside, business editor Terry Murden went South to discuss perceptions of the North. Everything he needed to know was found on a map of Britain hanging on an MoD wall. Someone had drawn a line across the country, just north of Birmingham, and above it sketched smoking factories and written the word 'permafrost'. Did we have fun with that one. Now Lord Howell of Guildford has added his name to the notorious list. During Lords questions he dropped in the remark that 'there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly in part of the North-East where there's plenty of room for fracking.' Cue even more outrage. What makes it all the more perfect is Lord Howell's credentials. He is Margaret Thatcher's old energy minister, George Osborne's dad-in-law and you don't get any more southern than Guildford.
This great stuff for North-East loyalty … and the newspapers did themselves proud. 
The Northern Echo carried this front page which appeared on national TV and has been retweeted hundreds of times.

Editor Peter Barron also covered the issue in a robust blog and has now encouraged readers to send in their photographs to show how 'fracking beautiful' the North-East is.

The Journal also carried a cracking fracking front page. Lord Howell has apologised - but it's all too late. The newspapers are not going to give up on this one. It's all just what is needed in the height of the silly season - a silly Tory peer with foot in mouth disease. This one will fill page after page, get the readers involved and run for weeks. Newspaper gold.

Illustration: Huffington Post