Ay-oop! Berwick-based former Mirror editor David Banks reviews new 'national' daily for the North 24

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AY-OOP! Ads are back on t’national newspaper front pages! Well, they are if the front page of the launch edition of 24, my “new national newspaper for t’North of England” was anything to go by.

Not that I could readily find a copy of what promised to be the best news for God’s Own Country since The Guardian’s messy divorce from Manchester.

A standing ovation from Guardian Media, Press Gazette and Radio 4’s Today programme – the kind of orchestrated fanfare that Classic FM Magazine might reserve for the Second Coming of Barbirolli and the Halle to the Free Trade Hall – had me racing down to the paper shop shortly after dawn.

But – pardon my French – where the bloody ’ell WAS t’bugger?

“Covering the North of England right up to the Scottish Borders,” the new northerly national’s excited spokespersons promised. Well, there were nowt doing at my village shop and we up here in Northumberland are as far north as England goes, just across the Tweed from the Scottish Borders region (which 24 also hinted it would serve).

“Haven’t heard anything about it from the wholesalers, dear,” said the (Scots) lassie in the village shop. “It was on the radio, right enough, but we’ve heard nothing.”

No sightings further south (but still terribly northern) on Tyne, Wear, Tees or Humber-sides, either.

So where WAS this “alternative to the ‘south-dominated’ national press we had been promised? What happened to our sports news “written from a northern, rather than a south-east perspective” which would focus on “the Manchester Uniteds and the Liverpools rather than the Chelseas and the Arsenals”?

In Workington and Aspatria, that’s where. On shop counters in Carlisle and Hexham; at WH Smiths’ motorway service outlets along the M6 from the north end of Preston to bonnie Lockerbie o’er the Border. And that was IT!

The 40p ‘national newspaper for the north’ produced by the Carlisle-based CN Group (regional publishers of the North West Evening Mail and Cumberland News) was little more than a Lake District Metro powered by Press Association.

This review appears by kind collusion of the editor of Press Gazette, who emailed me the complete launch edition (easily available in bloody London, of course!), probably in violation of a host of copyright regulations over which, I hope, CN will sue.

Anyway, front page ads are back if this five-days-a-week Cumberland News is anything to go by: a foot-of-page banner for the Stanwix Park Holiday Centre in Silloth, Cumbria, graces the opener. Oh, and Stanwix Park pops up on pages 5 and 7, too.

Talking of advertisers, the county’s ‘premier Citroen dealers’ (Telford’s of Carlisle) get a good show on Page Three and the best pun in the paper excruciates its way onto Page 11 in the ad for furniture shop Sofasogood (geddit?) of Barrow-in-Furness, where 24 also circulates, presumably.

The paper’s first splash reveals that a 12-year-old boy is the youngest football fan among a hundred football thugs to be banned from the nation’s terraces following a riot in Newcastle (oh dear, 24 doesn’t circulate there!) at the match with Sunderland (nope, nor there, either!).

The rest of the news is straight from Press Association a la Metro, nothing particularly northern other than a report of ‘North-West property prices’ unless you count ‘Rave police attacked’ (northern Essex) or ‘People smugglers held’ (northern Kent).

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An Indy-style note from editor Mike Haworth greets “the 1.1million readers in our corner of this northern part of the UK” (a sneaky admission of the corporate CoN there, I think) but it is left to features writer Ella Walker to get down and dirty with a northern icon.

Freddie Flintoff is right oop us northerners’ backstreets, especially as he was talking about an upcoming TV series in which he drives a fish ‘n’ chip van (as northern as black pudding!) around Britain talking – and being quoted – in authentic northernese:

“It’s me breakfast,” he says, with a gobful of apple. “I still go out with me mates. . . enjoy me-self. . . still train as much for me head as me body.” Ms Walker can’t resist quoting him in northernspeak, even when he’s turning down an (un-offered) 007 role: “[Bond] don’t do owt but strut around. . .”

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There’s sport a-plenty, all of the usual stuff: Euro 2016 majoring on Rooney and Albania (maybe copies of 24 will pop up there?), motor racing, cricket, the gee-gees and all. But nothing ‘specially proper’ northern.

Unless you count columnist Roger Lytollis’s review of Stone Roses’ four smash hit, 60,000-seat sellout concerts at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

No, he wasn’t actually AT the event (remember, 24’s version of the north only starts at Preston; Roger was at a warm-up gig at the Sands Centre, Carlisle, a fortnight earlier, along with 1,800 of the 1.1million fortunates from “our corner” of the UK.

Like 24, Stone Roses were okay that day . . . but not the real thing.

Former Daily Mirror editor David Banks now edits the website VoiceoftheNorth.net

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