Lord Howell in the running for Great North Run

Controversial peer Lord Howell could be in the running to start this year's Bupa Great North Run to make up for his comments about the region

Could Lord Howell be lining up alongside running stars Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie?
Could Lord Howell be lining up alongside running stars Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie?

A controversial lord who suggested the North East was a “desolate” place ripe for fracking may be offered the chance to apologise by taking to the streets for the Great North Run.

Race organisers say they have been asked to see if they can get Lord Howell to act as an honorary starter.

But, they admit, with suggestions also coming in for Seb Coe, our Olympic gold medallists and entertainers Ant and Dec, the competition for the position is fierce.

The starter’s position is not offered lightly either, with the likes of Sir Bobby Robson, Alan Shearer and Jack Charlton all having previously sent runners on their way.

Calls for a Lord Howell start came after the peer described the North East as ideal for fracking, unlike parts of the “beautiful” South.

But The Journal revealed yesterday how the peer now claims he meant to say Lancashire, a problem for race organisers in another part of the country.

Last night Great North Run bosses said they would welcome any suggestions for a starter, although they could make no promises.

A Nova spokesman said: “In the light of the fracking publicity surrounding Lord Howell’s comments about the North East, we have received suggestions that he should visit the region to be official starter of the Great North Run and see how far wide of the mark he was in his ‘desolate’ description.

“It’s an interesting idea and we would welcome the views of Journal readers.

“They may suggest that he act as a pacemaker and set off alongsides the likes of Mo Farah and see if any of the North East runners can catch him!”

Tourism bosses have said they were overwhelmed by the messages of North East pride following the remarks.

Kate Priestley, chair of Northumberland Tourism, said: “They say no publicity is bad publicity and I hope the negative comments made by Lord Howell will result in a great many more people discussing exactly how spectacular Northumberland’s landscapes really are,” she said.

“Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Northumberland get to enjoy walks on beautiful, deserted beaches or through spectacular countryside with only the thriving wildlife for company. We hope that more people will now be able to share these experiences.”

John Riddle, chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, added: “A third of Northumberland has protected landscape, making it one of the most beautiful and treasured places in the country.”

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