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The North East will rise again Northumbria only ever thrived on its own

Northumbrian pride at the Durham Miners Gala. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Northumbrian pride at the Durham Miners Gala. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images


January 5, 2023   6 mins

My corner of England has long been regarded as a land apart: a sort of English ultima Thule, with a sociable and hedonistic outlook recognisably different from the rest of the nation. That culture is expressed in everything from the wit and wisdom of Viz and the astonishing popularity of the Geordie japesters Ant & Dec, to the North East’s status as home to the only acceptable version of English Folk Dance.

Given its distinctiveness, it’s hardly surprising that the region has a long history of being run as a separate political unit. By holding out against Viking invasion, the Northern Anglo-Saxons established an Earldom of Northumbria that reached from the Forth to the Tees (before pressure from the Scots pushed its northern boundary south to the Tweed). Not only was this territory topographically encapsulated — “between the brine and the high ground and the fresh stream water” — but it was also defined by its sheer distance from London and the centres of royal power. The armigerous families who then controlled the medieval North East, such as the Percys and the Nevilles, had an unusual degree of independence within an English polity that had centralised much earlier than its European neighbours.

To a historian, therefore, there is something very satisfying about the recent news that the Government has approved a “devolution deal” to create a new “North East Mayoral Combined Authority” with an elected Mayor. This is an important milestone in the evolution of what is arguably England’s most well-defined region, as the new entity will cover the historic counties of Northumberland and Durham — the land from the Tweed to the Tees — and the cities, within them, of Durham, Sunderland and Newcastle upon Tyne.

The hope is that the North East will thrive under a unified political leadership; and the region’s history suggests this optimism is not unfounded. In the Early Medieval period, the Prince Bishop of Durham presided over his Palatinate from his palace at Bishop Auckland like a Rhineland FĂŒrstbischof. He had the powers of a king to hold courts, raise armies (to defend the border against the Scots) and even mint his own coinage — with silver Durham pennies issuing from Silver Street by the River Wear. This quasi-independence created a cadre of educated clerks to manage the county palatine’s legal, financial and administrative affairs. The presence of this proto-civil service contributed to both local economic development — the Prince Bishops were enthusiastic participants in the coal trade — and perhaps even the unusually high levels of literacy in the far North of England.

This was a sort of English devolution, avant la lettre, and meant that by the 17th century, County Durham was the only part of England which returned no members of parliament. The first MPs for Durham were elected in 1675, a full 410 years after a comparable cathedral city such as Lincoln; the Prince Bishop only returned his powers to the crown in 1836. So there is a sense that the governance of the North East was only settled around the same time as the United Kingdom itself was forming. Some excitable Northumbrian patriots (probably including me) might even consider us to be the fifth nation in the union.

But if the region’s political independence was dwindling, its economic independence was growing. The early modern period saw the temporal power of the Prince Bishops eclipsed by that of the coal barons who grew fantastically rich from the collieries of Northumberland and Durham. By the 18th century, control of the northern coal trade had fallen into the hands of a cartel of wealthy families known as the “Grand Allies”, whose price-setting so irritated the City of London that they nicknamed them “the Newcastle Parliament”.

This oligarchic and proto-corporatist approach to conducting business was typical of the North East, and would recur in the 19th century, when a handful of plutocratic industrialists dominated the civic life of the region, and wielded almost feudal power: men such as the armaments tycoon Lord Armstrong, the shipbuilder Sir Mark Palmer, or the great ironmaster Sir Lowthian Bell. Studying the region for his report on “Industrial Tyneside” in 1928, the sociologist Henry Mess observed that “the feudal tradition is strong in Northumberland”, “and there is not the sharp divorce between it and the new industrialism which is found in most areas”.

In many respects the Trade Union barons who emerged in the 20th century to challenge the oligarchs could be similarly feudal — especially Durham miners’ leaders such as John Wilson, Peter Lee and Sam Watson. And yet the Trade Unions in the North East achieved much for their members — not just better pay and conditions, but in their pioneering work on housing, schools, sanitation and care for the elderly. Organisations such as the Durham Miners Association achieved something approaching a welfare state while William Beveridge was still in short trousers. For as John Tomaney has argued so cogently, “County Durham thrived when it had the power collectively to help itself”. History offers something of a blueprint to a region thinking anew about how to exercise local power to improve the lives of its people.

A word that was often depicted on miners’ banners in shimmering gold like the Name of God was “nationalisation”, and yet nationalisation turned out to be a mixed blessing. For as much as it delivered gains in living standards — which my grandparents from the Northumberland coalfield spoke about with wonder for the rest of their lives — it inevitably led to centralisation. It left the North East vulnerable to capricious and parsimonious Westminster governments. Not only that, it disempowered the civic and associational institutions that had once had the confidence to tackle the scourge of poverty in old age, or build something as beautiful as South Shields Town Hall, where the debates “had the importance of those in Cicero’s Senate or Pitt’s House of Commons“.

The North East has been hammered by austerity, with funding cuts to councils of 79% since 2010. These have come close to undermining the functioning of local government altogether. But municipal leaders themselves have come to recognise that the principle of devolving power matters almost as much as the funds that come with devolution.

Reading about the latest development, I was particularly delighted (and not a little surprised) that the seven North East councils have managed to overcome the parochialism and local rivalries that have stymied municipal coordination in the region. “They have a beef that goes back centuries”: what Tony Soprano once said of the Balkans could be said of Newcastle and Sunderland. From the English Civil War, during which they took different sides, to the previous attempt at regional governance — the short-lived Tyne and Wear County Council, which was perceived to favour Tyneside excessively — mistrust and bad feeling have for too long percolated from the football terrace and message board to the political sphere. Despite evidence that shows that people in the North East have the greatest sense of belonging to their region than anywhere else in England, we’ve memed ourselves into thinking that Tyneside and Wearside are so totally incompatible that we can’t present a united front — even as the North of England’s other great conurbations have surged ahead with their own elected mayors.

That’s not what the North East wants anyway, some would argue. The shadow of a 2004 referendum hangs over any debate over devolution in the region. Rejected by almost 78% of voters, it’s often held up as evidence that there is no appetite for devolved power. But it took place in a different time, when there was a Labour government in office that was spending big in the region. The cabinet was stuffed full of North Eastern MPs, including the PM himself. And the Yes campaign was vague and complacent, while the No campaign tapped into a burgeoning anti-politician rhetoric, as well as the fears in the south of the region that this would be an assembly run from, and in the interests of, Tyneside (fears exploited skilfully by a trainee political Svengali from County Durham called Dominic Cummings, a key figure in the No campaign).

The question remains, then, as to whether this new mayoral authority will receive a public mandate. But the North East only ever thrived under local political leadership. As a distant outpost of the over-centralised British state — still reeling from the effects of the First World War, let alone the Second — it has been declining for over a century. For all the boosterism about being the only region with a positive balance of trade, the North East is now the poorest, unhealthiest and unhappiest region of England. It regularly tops the charts for “deaths of despair”, with a suicide rate twice that of London; 38% of local children live in poverty; and GDP per capita has plummeted in the North East from 93% of the national average in 1981 to 73% by 2017. No other English region has suffered such decay.

But something is stirring in the North. A phalanx of City Region “Metro Mayors” are establishing new centres of independent power and influence, while attempting to move beyond the belief that Westminster is both the cause of — and the solution to — all our problems. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that whatever the problem, it is always someone else’s fault. Especially in politics,” wrote Jamie Driscoll, one of the likely contenders for the North East mayoralty, recently. “What, though, if there are some genuinely difficult problems to solve?”

There certainly are. Labour Together’s recent “Plan for National Infrastructure” argued that Britain’s “urban hinterlands, small cities, towns, coastal and rural areas
 are experiencing forms of economic ‘undevelopment’”. This would present a daunting prospect to any government, but could an elected mayor for the lands between the Tweed and the Tees catalyse a Northumbrian renaissance?

Maybe. Certainly, the nationalising and centralising tendencies of the British state over the past century have disenfranchised the regions of England that might look enviously at the thriving German LĂ€nder — with their networks of regional banks and vocational training centres — and wonder what went wrong. For there’s a prize to be seized in the North East. The region that arguably did more than most to carbonise the planet might lead the way in decarbonisation, and create meaningful work. It might even rediscover the traditions of bottom-up social and economic development, and become one of the great heartlands of technical innovation, associationism, self-help and co-operation. Never again, we must hope, will talented locals like Dr Fiona Hill — recently installed as Chancellor of Durham University — be told that “There’s Nothing for You Here”.


Dan Jackson is the author of the best-selling book The Northumbrians: The North East of England and its People. A New History, published by Hurst (2019)

 

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

It is rather naive of the author to believe that the imposition of a political mayor on the North East region of England will make the slightest contribution to its prosperity. The prosperity of the North East lay entirely in its coal deposits and the industries these spawned.

My great grandfather rose from being the son of a Wearside butcher to become a significant industrial magnate during the 19th century and married the daughter of the man who sold him his first ship, who rose from a similar modest background. He started as a clerk and fitter ( a coal fitter being a coal broker) and acquired considerable prosperity through making contacts and shrewd commercial gambles in acquiring interests in coal mines, ships and quarries. Many of his ships sank but prudent insurance, laying off the commercial risks, enabled him to continue to prosper. It was ten years from the initial sinking of the Easington coal mine until it became viable because of flooding from the North Sea, a problem only resolved by bringing in German technology to freeze the ground.

The great industrial and mercantile developments of the North East all had their basis in the coal industry. The prosperity that brought underpinned the other commercial enterprises. Any enterprise involves risk and without a basis of prosperity men are generally unwilling to take the risk. My great grandfather was involved in offering a scheme to share the profits of the mines with the workers but it foundered on the perfectly understandable reluctance of the workers to take on the risk of sharing in losses.

The Nationalisation and subsequent demise of the coal industry sucked much of the basis for prosperity out of the region. Since that time local politicians have often done as much as they could to stifle what local enterprise remained. Having more political input is certainly not the way to increased prosperity.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Very good comment. Coal was the foundation of the prosperity because it enabled all the other industries when combined with the skill and drive of many entrepreneurs. In the north east there still are entrepreneurs, albeit stifled by the heavy and thuggish hand of government. What is needed is education, the ability and enthusiasm to create and retain wealth, and freedom to create, build, and trade. All those are well down the list of government priorities; if there were a devolved government that might bring them to the top, and not be hampered by Westminster, the north east could very easily flower again.
But the examples set by the socialistic and nasty regimes in Scotland and Wales are not encouraging…

John Nest
John Nest
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Key worker families in the North East have the highest rate of child poverty (41%) followed by the North West and London (both 29%), and the East of England (24%), while Scotland (8.3%) and Wales (8.9%) have the lowest rates. The socialist and nasty regimes in Scotland and Wales must be getting something right. I wonder how different the outcomes might be for the children of the North East had their parents and grandparents voted differently in 2004?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Nest

What precisely is “child poverty” these days?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  John Nest

As far as we can see on issues such as drug dependency in Scotland, the SNP government isn’t doing a great deal right on these issues. They are of course spending much more per capita than any English region, because of the heavy cross subsidy from the hated English, and no doubt some of this funding achieves something of its supposed aims. But just indefinitely increasing public spending and subsidies for an ever greater number of areas cannot be a sustainable solution. And when does the increasing resentment in the more ‘prosperous’ South East, but with high levels of relative deprivation and much higher housing costs, start to kick in?

The definition of child poverty is actually a measure of inequality, not poverty. That might be an issue, but it is not the same issue. On the current basis of comparing it to median incomes, the child poverty rate given a particular income distribution would be completely unchanged by a ten-, hundred- or thousand-fold increase in incomes.

I am pretty sceptical that the election of more politicians most of whose entire background and outlook is sceptical of allowing businesses to thrive, always susceptible to gimmickry distinguishing themselves from other politicians and the focus on short term ‘results’ will in itself achieve much. No doubt though that some politicians would be better than others.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Nest

What precisely is “child poverty” these days?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  John Nest

As far as we can see on issues such as drug dependency in Scotland, the SNP government isn’t doing a great deal right on these issues. They are of course spending much more per capita than any English region, because of the heavy cross subsidy from the hated English, and no doubt some of this funding achieves something of its supposed aims. But just indefinitely increasing public spending and subsidies for an ever greater number of areas cannot be a sustainable solution. And when does the increasing resentment in the more ‘prosperous’ South East, but with high levels of relative deprivation and much higher housing costs, start to kick in?

The definition of child poverty is actually a measure of inequality, not poverty. That might be an issue, but it is not the same issue. On the current basis of comparing it to median incomes, the child poverty rate given a particular income distribution would be completely unchanged by a ten-, hundred- or thousand-fold increase in incomes.

I am pretty sceptical that the election of more politicians most of whose entire background and outlook is sceptical of allowing businesses to thrive, always susceptible to gimmickry distinguishing themselves from other politicians and the focus on short term ‘results’ will in itself achieve much. No doubt though that some politicians would be better than others.

John Nest
John Nest
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Key worker families in the North East have the highest rate of child poverty (41%) followed by the North West and London (both 29%), and the East of England (24%), while Scotland (8.3%) and Wales (8.9%) have the lowest rates. The socialist and nasty regimes in Scotland and Wales must be getting something right. I wonder how different the outcomes might be for the children of the North East had their parents and grandparents voted differently in 2004?

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Coal was certainly the goods carried on the Stockton and Darlington railway, and was at the heart of economic growth in from 1850 through to 1950.
But that’s only a small part of the NE history.
The age of Coal is over. Most NE coal came from under the North Sea; there’s still a lot there but too far out to allow economic recovery.
Much of the NE’s attempts to recover where thwarted by bizarre EEC rules and projects which folded as soon as the funds stopped (see Siemens silicon foundry for a fine example). And yet numerous extra-EU companies are thriving in the area.
Johnson did give the NE something it had wanted for a long time, freeports. And coupled with Brexit they have more freedom than ever to find their own space in the economy. And I think they’ll do that…with or without a regional mayor!

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Very good comment. Coal was the foundation of the prosperity because it enabled all the other industries when combined with the skill and drive of many entrepreneurs. In the north east there still are entrepreneurs, albeit stifled by the heavy and thuggish hand of government. What is needed is education, the ability and enthusiasm to create and retain wealth, and freedom to create, build, and trade. All those are well down the list of government priorities; if there were a devolved government that might bring them to the top, and not be hampered by Westminster, the north east could very easily flower again.
But the examples set by the socialistic and nasty regimes in Scotland and Wales are not encouraging…

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Coal was certainly the goods carried on the Stockton and Darlington railway, and was at the heart of economic growth in from 1850 through to 1950.
But that’s only a small part of the NE history.
The age of Coal is over. Most NE coal came from under the North Sea; there’s still a lot there but too far out to allow economic recovery.
Much of the NE’s attempts to recover where thwarted by bizarre EEC rules and projects which folded as soon as the funds stopped (see Siemens silicon foundry for a fine example). And yet numerous extra-EU companies are thriving in the area.
Johnson did give the NE something it had wanted for a long time, freeports. And coupled with Brexit they have more freedom than ever to find their own space in the economy. And I think they’ll do that…with or without a regional mayor!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

It is rather naive of the author to believe that the imposition of a political mayor on the North East region of England will make the slightest contribution to its prosperity. The prosperity of the North East lay entirely in its coal deposits and the industries these spawned.

My great grandfather rose from being the son of a Wearside butcher to become a significant industrial magnate during the 19th century and married the daughter of the man who sold him his first ship, who rose from a similar modest background. He started as a clerk and fitter ( a coal fitter being a coal broker) and acquired considerable prosperity through making contacts and shrewd commercial gambles in acquiring interests in coal mines, ships and quarries. Many of his ships sank but prudent insurance, laying off the commercial risks, enabled him to continue to prosper. It was ten years from the initial sinking of the Easington coal mine until it became viable because of flooding from the North Sea, a problem only resolved by bringing in German technology to freeze the ground.

The great industrial and mercantile developments of the North East all had their basis in the coal industry. The prosperity that brought underpinned the other commercial enterprises. Any enterprise involves risk and without a basis of prosperity men are generally unwilling to take the risk. My great grandfather was involved in offering a scheme to share the profits of the mines with the workers but it foundered on the perfectly understandable reluctance of the workers to take on the risk of sharing in losses.

The Nationalisation and subsequent demise of the coal industry sucked much of the basis for prosperity out of the region. Since that time local politicians have often done as much as they could to stifle what local enterprise remained. Having more political input is certainly not the way to increased prosperity.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 year ago

Interesting that Bristol City recently decided to get rid of it’s elected Mayor after a referendum.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Interesting. It seems when people are given a choice they usually vote to abolish extra political posts unless they are in the grip of nationalist enthusiasm. The North East certainly decisively rejected Labour’s attempt to foist an extra layer of politicians on the North East last time they were asked. Of course, politicians of whatever stripe have a more optimistic view of their value; hence the establishment of this overarching Mayoral office.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

…last time they were asked…
Who asked them about Cleveland?

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

…last time they were asked…
Who asked them about Cleveland?

Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

However, West of England Combined Authority (comprising Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, and Bath and North East Somerset Council) continues with an elected mayor: Dan Norris (Labour).

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 year ago

Thanks Jack. Does that mean that Bristol currently has two mayors one above the other?

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 year ago

Thanks Jack. Does that mean that Bristol currently has two mayors one above the other?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Interesting. It seems when people are given a choice they usually vote to abolish extra political posts unless they are in the grip of nationalist enthusiasm. The North East certainly decisively rejected Labour’s attempt to foist an extra layer of politicians on the North East last time they were asked. Of course, politicians of whatever stripe have a more optimistic view of their value; hence the establishment of this overarching Mayoral office.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

However, West of England Combined Authority (comprising Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, and Bath and North East Somerset Council) continues with an elected mayor: Dan Norris (Labour).

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 year ago

Interesting that Bristol City recently decided to get rid of it’s elected Mayor after a referendum.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

A large chunk of the area and population that lies north of the Tees identifies as Teesside – not Northumberland – and is more economically integrated with Yorkshire and London than Durham or Newcastle.

It is an academic’s fantasy not rooted in economic or geographic or social reality. Another layer of failed political management never fixed anything.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

That is true, but Teesiders do identify much more as north easterners than anything else.

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I noticed that. But it is complicated. Darlington and Stockton are in county Durham, but Yarm is in North Yorkshire, as is Redcar.
And whilst these places are a long way from Leeds, I think they do associate with York, Doncaster, and even Sheffield. Teesiders are certainly not Geordies.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Bellisarius

Middleborough? That is indeed a sad decline but has a feisty mayor who is rebuilding pride, and is still the major Tees centre for many.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Bellisarius

Middleborough? That is indeed a sad decline but has a feisty mayor who is rebuilding pride, and is still the major Tees centre for many.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

That is true, but Teesiders do identify much more as north easterners than anything else.

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I noticed that. But it is complicated. Darlington and Stockton are in county Durham, but Yarm is in North Yorkshire, as is Redcar.
And whilst these places are a long way from Leeds, I think they do associate with York, Doncaster, and even Sheffield. Teesiders are certainly not Geordies.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

A large chunk of the area and population that lies north of the Tees identifies as Teesside – not Northumberland – and is more economically integrated with Yorkshire and London than Durham or Newcastle.

It is an academic’s fantasy not rooted in economic or geographic or social reality. Another layer of failed political management never fixed anything.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
1 year ago

Incredible that an apparently North East based writer would fail to mention one of the region’s success stories, the tenure of Tory Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, but shoehorn in a job recommendation for the North Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, a placeholder far left nodding dog who struggles to string two words together.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
1 year ago

Incredible that an apparently North East based writer would fail to mention one of the region’s success stories, the tenure of Tory Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, but shoehorn in a job recommendation for the North Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, a placeholder far left nodding dog who struggles to string two words together.

Anthony Michaels
Anthony Michaels
1 year ago

It is sad and amusing to hear these irrelevant musings.
In the course of a single generation, the British people have relinquished their identity and sovereignty, and those are never coming back. The gates of mass immigration remain open, and your ruling class will never let them close again no matter what voters say. Every elite and young person educated in Britain regards any remaining pockets of British-ness as irredeemably racist and deplorable. They will either die or become as “diverse” and cosmopolitan as London. I see no brakes on this train.

Anthony Michaels
Anthony Michaels
1 year ago

It is sad and amusing to hear these irrelevant musings.
In the course of a single generation, the British people have relinquished their identity and sovereignty, and those are never coming back. The gates of mass immigration remain open, and your ruling class will never let them close again no matter what voters say. Every elite and young person educated in Britain regards any remaining pockets of British-ness as irredeemably racist and deplorable. They will either die or become as “diverse” and cosmopolitan as London. I see no brakes on this train.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
1 year ago

I don’t disagree with anything in the article, and the author makes a good case for regional devolution. But this does give me the opportunity to have my usual whinge about this particular topic. That is, the title “mayor” for the elected head of such an administration is entirely the wrong one.
Historically, English mayors have presided over urban settlements, all the way from the Mayor of Casterbridge to the Lord Mayor of London (and yes, I know that one of those is fictional, but it’s a good illustration of the point). It’s not unreasonable to extend that title to the elected heads of urban settlements, such as the Mayor of London or the Mayor of Liverpool – especially since we’ve imported this concept from the USA, where elected mayors of major (and smaller) cities are the norm.
It isn’t, though, equally reasonable to apply the term to elected heads of regions or largely rural areas. The title of Mayor has never been used for them in the past, and shouldn’t be, now.
If we are looking for historical precedent from the British Isles, then we could do worse than resurrect the title of Sheriff. Historically, sheriffs presided over counties, while mayors presided over towns and cities, so there’s an obvious synergy there. The argument that this would cause confusion with the ceremonial role of the High Sheriff isn’t really convincing, given that we don’t have a problem with there being both an elected Mayor of London and a ceremonial Lord Mayor of London. Most people can, most of the time, tell the difference. An elected Sheriff would be different to a High Sheriff, and both can coexist.
Alternatively, given that we’ve borrowed the idea from our former colonies in the first place, there’s no reason why we can’t borrow the terminology as well and call them Governors. That might be a step too far for those who object to the Americanisation of our politics and language, but it would at least have the advantage of being neither historically barbarous nor potentially ambiguous.
Either way, Mayor is the wrong word for this kind of elected representative. I’m sure we can come up with something better.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

“Prince-Bishop” perhaps?

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

What about the Earl of Northumberland? And they should give them a castle or palace or something where they can hold receptions for potential investors as well as promoting synergy amongst local people.
And if they do a good job they can be re-elected and stay there…otherwise they’re out on their ear.
There’s a lot to be said for an elected aristocracy!

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Bellisarius

We already have a Duke of Northumberland, well equipped with castles, especially Alnwick, and a strong old fashioned sense of duty, and I think the largest private landowner in England. And a very fine chap to boot

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

“largest private landowner in England.”
At a mere 130,000 acres NOT so I’m afraid.

Have you edited your 130,000 acres? It seems to have disappeared?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Fact check: Largest landowners in England:
#Land OwnerAcres
1FORESTRY COMMISSION2,200,000
2MINISTRY OF DEFENCE1,101,851
3CROWN ESTATE678,420
4NATIONAL TRUST & NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND589,748
5RSPB332,000
6RICHARD SCOTT, DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH & QUEENSBERRY280,000
7ANDERS HOLCH POVLSEN218,364
8THE DUKE OF ATHOLL’S TRUSTS145,000
9UNITED UTILITIES140,124
10HUGH GROSVENOR, 7TH DUKE OF WESTMINSTER140,000
11DUCHY of CORNWALL135,000
12DEFRA116,309
13CHURCH OF ENGLAND105,000
14DWR CYMRU CYFYNGEDIG (WELSH WATER)77,975
15JOHN WHITTAKER (PEEL GROUP)70,000
16SALTAIRE WATER70,000
17CHEUNG KONG INFRASTRUCTURE HOLDINGS69,294
18MRH MINERALS67,935
19SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM63,000
20HENRY SOMERSET, 12TH DUKE OF BEAUFORT52,000

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

QED.
Thank you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

QED.
Thank you.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

Fact check: Largest landowners in England:
#Land OwnerAcres
1FORESTRY COMMISSION2,200,000
2MINISTRY OF DEFENCE1,101,851
3CROWN ESTATE678,420
4NATIONAL TRUST & NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND589,748
5RSPB332,000
6RICHARD SCOTT, DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH & QUEENSBERRY280,000
7ANDERS HOLCH POVLSEN218,364
8THE DUKE OF ATHOLL’S TRUSTS145,000
9UNITED UTILITIES140,124
10HUGH GROSVENOR, 7TH DUKE OF WESTMINSTER140,000
11DUCHY of CORNWALL135,000
12DEFRA116,309
13CHURCH OF ENGLAND105,000
14DWR CYMRU CYFYNGEDIG (WELSH WATER)77,975
15JOHN WHITTAKER (PEEL GROUP)70,000
16SALTAIRE WATER70,000
17CHEUNG KONG INFRASTRUCTURE HOLDINGS69,294
18MRH MINERALS67,935
19SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM63,000
20HENRY SOMERSET, 12TH DUKE OF BEAUFORT52,000

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

“largest private landowner in England.”
At a mere 130,000 acres NOT so I’m afraid.

Have you edited your 130,000 acres? It seems to have disappeared?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Bellisarius

We already have a Duke of Northumberland, well equipped with castles, especially Alnwick, and a strong old fashioned sense of duty, and I think the largest private landowner in England. And a very fine chap to boot

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

To differentiate, we could return to the original term of ‘Shire Reeve’, perhaps.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

Doesn’t the word ‘sheriff’ derive from ‘shire reeve’?

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Red Reynard

Doesn’t the word ‘sheriff’ derive from ‘shire reeve’?

North Durham Lass
North Durham Lass
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill also contains provisions for the mayor to have an alternative title, such as ‘county commissioner’, ‘county governor’ or ‘elected leader’. (See page 34 in the pdf below)
Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, Bill 6, 58/3, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-03/0006/220006.pdf

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

“Prince-Bishop” perhaps?

Mr Bellisarius
Mr Bellisarius
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

What about the Earl of Northumberland? And they should give them a castle or palace or something where they can hold receptions for potential investors as well as promoting synergy amongst local people.
And if they do a good job they can be re-elected and stay there…otherwise they’re out on their ear.
There’s a lot to be said for an elected aristocracy!

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

To differentiate, we could return to the original term of ‘Shire Reeve’, perhaps.

North Durham Lass
North Durham Lass
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill also contains provisions for the mayor to have an alternative title, such as ‘county commissioner’, ‘county governor’ or ‘elected leader’. (See page 34 in the pdf below)
Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, Bill 6, 58/3, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-03/0006/220006.pdf

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
1 year ago

I don’t disagree with anything in the article, and the author makes a good case for regional devolution. But this does give me the opportunity to have my usual whinge about this particular topic. That is, the title “mayor” for the elected head of such an administration is entirely the wrong one.
Historically, English mayors have presided over urban settlements, all the way from the Mayor of Casterbridge to the Lord Mayor of London (and yes, I know that one of those is fictional, but it’s a good illustration of the point). It’s not unreasonable to extend that title to the elected heads of urban settlements, such as the Mayor of London or the Mayor of Liverpool – especially since we’ve imported this concept from the USA, where elected mayors of major (and smaller) cities are the norm.
It isn’t, though, equally reasonable to apply the term to elected heads of regions or largely rural areas. The title of Mayor has never been used for them in the past, and shouldn’t be, now.
If we are looking for historical precedent from the British Isles, then we could do worse than resurrect the title of Sheriff. Historically, sheriffs presided over counties, while mayors presided over towns and cities, so there’s an obvious synergy there. The argument that this would cause confusion with the ceremonial role of the High Sheriff isn’t really convincing, given that we don’t have a problem with there being both an elected Mayor of London and a ceremonial Lord Mayor of London. Most people can, most of the time, tell the difference. An elected Sheriff would be different to a High Sheriff, and both can coexist.
Alternatively, given that we’ve borrowed the idea from our former colonies in the first place, there’s no reason why we can’t borrow the terminology as well and call them Governors. That might be a step too far for those who object to the Americanisation of our politics and language, but it would at least have the advantage of being neither historically barbarous nor potentially ambiguous.
Either way, Mayor is the wrong word for this kind of elected representative. I’m sure we can come up with something better.

Jacob Atkinson
Jacob Atkinson
1 year ago

The region that arguably did more than most to carbonise the planet might lead the way in decarbonisation, and create meaningful work.

Dear, oh, dear… the same pointless green dross trotted out again. The ‘green economy’, if it ever materialises, will probably look much like the current one. The economy of the future will, in fact, look much like the previous one. Blue-collar workers are increasing in status as university degrees become increasingly worthless. The whole point of Brexit, won largely by working-class votes, as Aris Roussinos explained in his recent piece, was

a return to an economy of domestic industrial production, and to a drastic reduction in the historically unprecedented levels of inward migration to which the British political class had committed itself.

The left’s current ‘green new deal’ plan will simply drive energy prices even higher than their current level which, despite what the mainstream media incessantly tell us, is not all down to Vladimir Putin’s war; rather, to our own political elites’ catastrophic economic mismanagement over the last 40 years. Perhaps more damningly than even that, the left don’t even believe their own rhetoric. Neoliberalism and the selling off of nationalised industries which once provided steady work to generations is apparently a fair price to pay for ‘saving the planet’. Any possible gains from this fantasy economy would no doubt be entirely negated by unending mass immigration. ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding’, indeed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jacob Atkinson
Jacob Atkinson
Jacob Atkinson
1 year ago

The region that arguably did more than most to carbonise the planet might lead the way in decarbonisation, and create meaningful work.

Dear, oh, dear… the same pointless green dross trotted out again. The ‘green economy’, if it ever materialises, will probably look much like the current one. The economy of the future will, in fact, look much like the previous one. Blue-collar workers are increasing in status as university degrees become increasingly worthless. The whole point of Brexit, won largely by working-class votes, as Aris Roussinos explained in his recent piece, was

a return to an economy of domestic industrial production, and to a drastic reduction in the historically unprecedented levels of inward migration to which the British political class had committed itself.

The left’s current ‘green new deal’ plan will simply drive energy prices even higher than their current level which, despite what the mainstream media incessantly tell us, is not all down to Vladimir Putin’s war; rather, to our own political elites’ catastrophic economic mismanagement over the last 40 years. Perhaps more damningly than even that, the left don’t even believe their own rhetoric. Neoliberalism and the selling off of nationalised industries which once provided steady work to generations is apparently a fair price to pay for ‘saving the planet’. Any possible gains from this fantasy economy would no doubt be entirely negated by unending mass immigration. ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding’, indeed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jacob Atkinson
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago

Like the proposed modest changes to the House of Lords, of “two out, one in”, extra government should only be on the basis of get rid of two layers if we must have a new layer.
By all means have a new Prince-Bishop if the county councils are abolished, and the district and parish councils merged.
As a great man said “don’t ask government to solve the problem, government is the problem”

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago

Like the proposed modest changes to the House of Lords, of “two out, one in”, extra government should only be on the basis of get rid of two layers if we must have a new layer.
By all means have a new Prince-Bishop if the county councils are abolished, and the district and parish councils merged.
As a great man said “don’t ask government to solve the problem, government is the problem”

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Anyone recall T Dan Smith MP, aka “Mr Newcastle “?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Anyone recall T Dan Smith MP, aka “Mr Newcastle “?

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

“people in the North East have the greatest sense of belonging to their region than anywhere else in England”
Ouch. How did that ever make it past the editors? In my day that would be an O level fail.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

“people in the North East have the greatest sense of belonging to their region than anywhere else in England”
Ouch. How did that ever make it past the editors? In my day that would be an O level fail.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

If we junk the vast majority of the House of Lords as the quid pro quo that’d also help and perhaps much better reflect a governance model the public could welcome and understand. Given the cost associated with 800+ House of Lords members, who knows it might even save some money (as well as reduce the element of semi-corruption associated with party donors acquiring ermine).
But the issue will be all about ‘devolved powers’ and the balance with Westminster. Figureheads with limited levers will just frustrate. But a real commitment to serious devolved powers would move us in a Federal direction. Fascinatingly that was one of the possible models seriously explored before Irish partition when forebears were trying to find ways of holding a Union together. Obviously that didn’t work for a whole range of other specific reasons but one could envisage a future UK Federal model also spiking the guns of independence for Scotland. You can see why quietly some forward thinking politicians are beginning to push this debate.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Lets hope they push further and faster! An opportunity for Rishi to spike Keir’s guns on Lords reform

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Unlikely. They’ve spent too much time placing party coffer donors there. It appears they need the patronage to help raise money.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Unlikely. They’ve spent too much time placing party coffer donors there. It appears they need the patronage to help raise money.

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Devolved power is entirely the point; in 2004, a question asked by the electorate was ” can we turn the A1 into a motorway?” “NO” came the answer – so much for devolved power, eh.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Lets hope they push further and faster! An opportunity for Rishi to spike Keir’s guns on Lords reform

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Devolved power is entirely the point; in 2004, a question asked by the electorate was ” can we turn the A1 into a motorway?” “NO” came the answer – so much for devolved power, eh.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

If we junk the vast majority of the House of Lords as the quid pro quo that’d also help and perhaps much better reflect a governance model the public could welcome and understand. Given the cost associated with 800+ House of Lords members, who knows it might even save some money (as well as reduce the element of semi-corruption associated with party donors acquiring ermine).
But the issue will be all about ‘devolved powers’ and the balance with Westminster. Figureheads with limited levers will just frustrate. But a real commitment to serious devolved powers would move us in a Federal direction. Fascinatingly that was one of the possible models seriously explored before Irish partition when forebears were trying to find ways of holding a Union together. Obviously that didn’t work for a whole range of other specific reasons but one could envisage a future UK Federal model also spiking the guns of independence for Scotland. You can see why quietly some forward thinking politicians are beginning to push this debate.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

A bit short sighted this, just bring back the Danelaw and be done with it.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Oh.
You mean the northeast of England.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I didn’t know you were good at geography Brendan!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thanks, I will accept a gold star.
I live in the North East of the UK.
The Tyne is 250 miles south of here.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

North Britain as we used to call it.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

North Britain as we used to call it.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thanks, I will accept a gold star.
I live in the North East of the UK.
The Tyne is 250 miles south of here.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

How very perceptive of you Brendan, particularly as the headline states “The North East will rise again”.

I often wonder if Ireland ever will.

Andrew Green
Andrew Green
1 year ago

“It might even rediscover the traditions of bottom-up social and economic development, and become one of the great heartlands of technical innovationassociationismself-help and co-operation.”
If Johnson’s catch-phrase “take back control” means anything, it is the Burkean tradition of bottom up not top down government that used to distinguish this country from our European neighbours and everyone else.
None of you mention this, concerned more with titles “mayor” or “sheriff”, perpetuating the top down government we have had since Attlee.
Joel Kotkin (January 4) writes ”Over the past year, traditional industries such as manufacturingagriculture and energy have thrived, while media companies have lost $500 billio in value and tech firms have suffered a reversal of an outstanding $4 trillion.”   He cites Rony Abovitz,  the AI entrepreneur : “ It’s the end of the white-collar knowledge work,”. Instead, he predicts the coming years will be shaped more by the rise of the “sophisticated, technically capable blue-collar worker”.It’s there for the taking and the sooner, the better I say!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Unless it rises a couple of hundred miles beyond Berwick, it is only the North East of one part of the UK.

Andrew Green
Andrew Green
1 year ago

“It might even rediscover the traditions of bottom-up social and economic development, and become one of the great heartlands of technical innovationassociationismself-help and co-operation.”
If Johnson’s catch-phrase “take back control” means anything, it is the Burkean tradition of bottom up not top down government that used to distinguish this country from our European neighbours and everyone else.
None of you mention this, concerned more with titles “mayor” or “sheriff”, perpetuating the top down government we have had since Attlee.
Joel Kotkin (January 4) writes ”Over the past year, traditional industries such as manufacturingagriculture and energy have thrived, while media companies have lost $500 billio in value and tech firms have suffered a reversal of an outstanding $4 trillion.”   He cites Rony Abovitz,  the AI entrepreneur : “ It’s the end of the white-collar knowledge work,”. Instead, he predicts the coming years will be shaped more by the rise of the “sophisticated, technically capable blue-collar worker”.It’s there for the taking and the sooner, the better I say!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Unless it rises a couple of hundred miles beyond Berwick, it is only the North East of one part of the UK.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I didn’t know you were good at geography Brendan!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

How very perceptive of you Brendan, particularly as the headline states “The North East will rise again”.

I often wonder if Ireland ever will.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Oh.
You mean the northeast of England.