Toon raiders: Our friends in the North. No, really

Geordies are at the centre of national fiascos. But where would we be without them? D J Taylor reports
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This month's most beleaguered minority award? Look no further than the fog-bound banks of the Tyne, whose inhabitants have had possibly the worst couple of weeks since T Dan Smith went down in the local government corruption scandal of the early 1970s.

The man at the centre of the Labour Party funding scandal? Why, step forward north-eastern property developer (what a fateful moral burden those words now carry, practically on the same scale as "adult movie world magnate") Mr David Abrahams.

And who lost those two disks of confidential HMRC data? Someone at its Gateshead HQ, apparently.

The most "vicious" football supporters in England? The black-and-white-scarfed satirists of St James' Park, whose retributive venom shocked even the case-hardened Joey Barton.

No doubt about it, all kind of Northern Rocks real and metaphorical are sinking into the sands of public enmity, with Tynesiders set to replace the Scots and the Welsh as the objects of sardonic amusement in southern drawing-rooms. All very disheartening because, in regional precedence, Geordies, with such model citizens as Alan Shearer and Sting, usually stand pretty high.

Here in the desolate East we expect such slurs and revel in them ("NFN" shorthand for "Normal for Norfolk" is used in medical records). But Tynesiders have always seemed to transcend the mockery of accent and locale. Even the nickname "Geordie" (meaning "For George" and denoting allegiance to the crown in the 1745 rebellion) has always acknowledged a collective loyalty rather than, as with "ETs" (Essex Tarts) or "Tractor Boys" (the denizens of Suffolk), a simple insult.

How best to put these demons speedily to rest, and ensure that the likes of Mr Abrahams and the Northern Rock management team do not return to haunt us? We need only look to the media for the positive face of the modern North-east. A survey last year claimed that of the throng of regional accents currently featured on radio, Tyneside's was the one punters assumed to convey such qualities as honesty and friendliness. Children's TV swarms with likely Ant & Dec-style lads freshly decanted from the Byker estates, while the phones ring white hot at the agents of old faithfuls such as Kevin Whately and Jimmy Nail.

Then there is the long-term cultural framework, a kaleidoscope of dazzling interventions in the worlds of music, literature and art going back to the days of Thomas Bewick and beyond. Viz magazine? Auf Weidersehn Pet? When the Boat Comes In? Sid Chaplin, the pitman-turned-writer whose The Day of the Sardine (1961) is one of the great proletarian novels of the 20th century? And where would the 1960s have been without the Animals, 1970s folk without Lindisfarne and punk-rock without Penetration? Mr Abrahams, his putative wives and his complex aliases, the Gateshead data disaster and Joey Barton's strictures: all these are minor impediments in the path of the Geordie cavalcade. It may have hedged its bets on Bonnie Prince Charlie, but here in the 21st century the North will rise!

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