Monday 26 November 2007

The North leads again

The North East continues to dominate the national news agenda. This morning’s seven o’clock bulletin on Radio 4 was led by The Abominable Showman (known affectionately in the City as “The Bearded Git”) attempting to ride to the rescue of Northern Rock. Although, of course, he won’t be doing anything as pedestrian as riding. (Spot the oxymoron). Dropping in by parachute from low space orbit, or walking across the Tyne (or at any rate the ornamental lake in Leazes Park) seems much more likely. The only ludicrous stunt we can probably rule out for sure is abseiling, judging by the agonized look in his eyes in that clip of a recent exploit which the BBC delights in replaying.

I find almost everything Branson does cringeworthy, to borrow a handy coinage from a driver for another train company. I heard him using it to beard [sic] a Virgin guard (or whatever they’re called these days) about Sir Richard’s extraordinary paean of praise for his “hero” driver who stayed at his post to steer the train to safety after the Grayrigg crash in Westmorland in February. “Does he think these ****ing things have a ****ing steering wheel up at the front, then?” It may say something for Sir Richard as an employer that, while his subordinate, sorry colleague, did not exactly leap to his defence, he did not join in the abuse, either. Though of course this might have been related to the fact that he was wearing a name badge, and there was a fat Bloke with a notebook taking an unseemly interest in his private conversation.

Still, in the case of the abseiling, it’s jolly nice to see the cringe internalized. Along with his testicles, to judge from his facial expression.

My only experience of “one of the world's most recognised and respected brands”, to quote their website, is Virgin Trains. It’s also the only privatized train operator to have made me think that dear old British Rail had quite a lot going for it. I did a little jig of glee when they weren’t awarded the East Coast franchise. My reluctance to be criminalized by submitting to fingerprinting and intrusive questioning means that I shall be unable to renew my passport when it expires, so I already face being trapped in the UK for the rest of my life. If I had to face a Virgin Train to get me anywhere, I’d probably never leave Northumberland again.

After the Beardie latest, the second item on the seven o’clock news was about the Newcastle property developer who gave £400,000 to the Labour party through a couple of associates, in order to protect his privacy. Well, that’s certainly worked a treat.

I’m beginning to wonder whether people in the North East are terminally incapable of achieving either basic competence or compliance with elementary rules. So far in 2007 we’ve managed to tip one of the country’s top mortgage banks into effective insolvency, and put the financial security and peace of mind of half the population at risk by casually losing their personal details. What fresh heights can there be to scale in the remaining 36 days of the year?

No comments: