Here is an extract of today’s media briefing from Downing Street regarding the official naming ceremony of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s new (and impressively vast) aircraft carrier:
‘Later today the Prime Minister will attend the naming ceremony for the new HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH carrier – the first new carrier in the British fleet in over 20 years and the biggest one ever built in the UK. It is a manufacturing and industrial achievement for the whole UK with work on it taking place not just in Rosyth but in Appledore, Birkenhead, Govan, Portsmouth and Tyne creating and sustaining over 10,000 jobs across its supply chain.’
For me, the happy news was somewhat spoiled by one word in the press release: ‘Tyne’, for the very simple reason that it isn’t a place. You can no more build a ship “in…Tyne” than you can in Thames, in Mersey or in Tweed (leaving aside Jacob Rees-Mogg, whom one suspects would gladly build a ship in tweed).
Ships can, of course, be built ‘in Tyneside’ or ‘on Tyneside’, but ‘in Tyne’ would only be possible if you were to build them out at sea in the Tyne sector of the BBC Shipping Forecast – which would be quite difficult.
It’s a small error, and admittedly as a son of Tyneside I care about it more than most, but it’s an annoying and unfortunate one. Does the Government not have enough problems communicating to areas in the North East without failing to know what they are actually called?
When Chuka Umunna decides to confuse Worcester and Wichita, can we Tories not be allowed to enjoy his ignorance without someone on our side undermining the joke?
Annoyingly, this isn’t the first time this has happened – Alan Duncan famously launched a thousand palms slapping into faces when he addressed the “City of Tyneside”, another non-existent place.
Whether it’s a lack of attention to detail, a lack of north-easterners in Downing Street or simply a southern culture which tends to view tracts of the country as “Here be dragons” territory, it isn’t going to win anyone any friends.
Tyneside proudly played its part in building HMS Queen Elizabeth – as it played its part in building countless ships before. The very least it deserves is for Downing Street to get its name right.