ALAN CASTLE: Not living on the edge of oblivion

An article in the Guardian newspaper at the weekend, written by Andy Beckett and focusing a critical eye on the North East, has understandably caused outrage.

It painted a grim picture of an area being neglected by central Government and ‘teetering’ on the brink of the same oblivion experienced by Detroit, which was declared bankrupt in December last year with debts of $18.5billion, largely after the collapse of its car industry.

But angry folk and the business community have bitten back, with interest!

The piece has been criticised for having a jaundiced view of the North East, for taking negative quotes out of context and not accentuating the positives. There have also been accusations of a national media bias for the south.

Parallels can be drawn between any two towns or cities – they are, after all, inhabited by the same species – homo sapiens, commonly known as humans, who have similar needs, problems, ambitions.

Equally, differences between places can be highlighted or even exaggerated. It really depends on the story you are seeking to tell, the angle from which you want to view a situation ... your agenda.

Nobody is pretending the North East doesn’t have issues, but to compare it with Detroit, which the journalist claims came from the mouths of different people interviewed and not from him, seems at best strange.

This region boasts one of Europe’s most productive car plants – Nissan – which has adapted well to changes in the industry. So well, in fact, that bosses have pledged its future in Sunderland.

Certainly many of the problems aired are not unique to the North East and the depressing pictures used could easily have been taken in London or any of the cities in Britain.

One of this area’s most successful businessmen, Paul Callaghan CBE, chairman of Sunderland-based technology and software company Leighton Group and former chairman of the now-defunct Regional Development Agency ONE North East took to social media to vent his frustration.

He summed it up in his Tweets: “The North East is the only region in the country with a Balance of Payments surplus (and not even mentioned by @guardian) #NEandproud

“Tremendous growth in the North East’s software sector (not even mentioned by @guardian) #NEandproud”

In this corner of the region, we have much to shout about. There are many signs of recovery from the deep recession and our towns and villages consistently win awards for the best places in the land to live or shop. And our countryside and coastline is without doubt spectacular.

But the over-riding factor in my book is the people.

We can boast the most positive, friendly, welcoming and hard-working folk you could ever wish to meet.

At a time when the rest of England was rioting in 2011 over what many commentators said was a protest against social and economic conditions, the one area that was barely affected was ... the North East.

Teetering on the brink? Hardly!