The Guardian Has Really Annoyed A Lot Of People In The North East
National newspaper relies on stereotypes, irks region. Region responds in outrage.
On Saturday The Guardian published a story by Andy Beckett likening the north east of England to Detroit, the U.S. city that famously declared bankruptcy in 2013.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, also says she pointed Beckett towards positive aspects of the north east but that didn't make it into the finished piece.
The article also highlights Wonga's sponsorship of Newcastle United's football shirts as "a similarly dispiriting story". Except that's not abnormal – plenty of payday lenders back football clubs and that doesn't instantly mean that their local economies are doomed.
The Guardian story also references Lord Howell's suggestion that the north east contains "large uninhabited and desolate areas" that are prime for fracking.
Beckett also spent half an hour in mima, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, on a Thursday evening. He says he saw only four other visitors to the gallery.
So what's the reality? Well, no-one says that the north east is without problems. High unemployment, low wages, and comparatively fewer good graduates (and graduate jobs) are all issues.
But the region certainly isn't bankrupt, and certainly isn't in danger of being cast off from the rest of the country.
Overlooking differences of perception, one of the few hard facts the article relies on is wrong: Beckett claims the contribution of the north east to the UK's GVA (gross value added, its contribution to the growth of the economy) has dropped from 3% "in the Blair years" to "barely 2%" -- a drop of a third. In fact, it's dropped much less than that, from 3.2% of UK GVA in 1997 to 3% in 2012.