For Whom the Drum Beats. . .

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Northern statesman: George Clarke, ex-pupil at Oxclose state school in Sunderland

WE ARE LIVING THROUGH a truly awful time. Every “ologist” known to man, together with a plethora of scientists, doctors, specialists, economists et al has opined daily on the course of the pandemic. Their views are overwhelming in scope and their predictions, often contradictory, are depressing.

Between their pronouncements and Us exists a group of messengers, their heralds if you like. Missing from among the chorus of heralds is the voice of reason, real life and – more significantly – a Northern Voice.

There is a sameness about these beautifully suited and beautifully spoken people. Their perfect diction is, indeed, music to the ears while their media training precedes them to the podium. Are we now so conditioned as to be more likely to believe guidance delivered in such dulcet tones, is it more acceptable? Is ‘received pronunciation’ more authoritative?

Where, oh where, are the voices of all those brilliant experts living north of the Humber? Why has the government been so reluctant to deny any vestige of control to local government or to our public health officials who know their areas and current health issues?

London-centric is their answer, control is their aim. This disaster, as it truly is, they deem will be best handled by a group of MPs with sparse knowledge of the country beyond its capital.

They have much in common. Many are alumni of the same school ( I never use the word ‘public’ in scholastic terms because their alma mater is as private as private could be and as exclusive as money can make it. A strong thread of superiority is sewn into the curriculum. . . and it works!

If ever we needed one voice for the north it is now. We need a mayor with the same impact as Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester. So come on, northern councils: throw your red, blue and yellow political ribbons into the shredder and choose a figurehead with some gravitas to challenge the Westminster bubble and bang our northern drum.

I want to bang my big drum in support of our state schools. We do not rejoice sufficiently in their successes, or boast about their ex-pupils, two of whom I nominate as northern ‘national’ celebrities in quite different fields.

First, consider Channel 4 presenter and architect George Clarke who has fostered such an interest in architecture and whose programmes (Restoration Man and Amazing Spaces) are constantly recommissioned. Well done George, we northerners are proud of what you have achieved through your state comprehensive school education at Oxclose in Sunderland. You are my first regional statesman.

Northern statesman: David Olusoga OBE grew up in Gateshead

Second, Dr David Olusoga OBE. Born in Nigeria, he grew up in Gateshead, attended Liverpool University and is now Professor of Public History at Manchester as well as presenter of  a number of influential TV documentaries (most recently  A House Through Time and the BAFTA-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners) which have captivated audiences with the appeal of social history. His programme on slavery reduced me to tears.

Well done, David; we are proud of what you have achieved through your state school education. You, too, are a northern statesman.

There are so many more talented and gifted men and women who were pupils of the northern state school system who should speak for us and who deserve celebration.

What we need is a northern roll of honour: your suggestions in the Comments box below, please!

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