The top 10 most desolate places in the north east

Lord Howell of Guildford has suggested the "desolate" north east would be the perfect place for fracking, and you can really see what he means.

The Conservative peer Baron Howell of Guildford, father-in-law to the Chancellor George Osborne, has made a strong case in favour of limiting shale gas fracking to "the large" and "desolate" areas of the UK. He suggested it would be "a mistake to think of and discuss fracking in terms of the whole of the United Kingdom in one go", suggesting the north east might be a reasonable possibility.

And you can see what he means. A nation's economy doesn't run on thin air after all. Somebody has to pay the price. Why not those feckless, scrounging wildings in the north east? They don't even like their surroundings, unlike those who recently put a stop to any suggestion of fracking in the home counties. I mean, just look at the desolation! How could they?

Yuk. Desolation near Bamburgh, Northumberland.

Boys, get your drills. The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Photograph: John Lord.

I can feel the bile rising. Alnmouth. Photograph: Andy Hawkins.

Everything the light touches is DESOLATE.

Why build a distinguished concert venue when you could have a nice hole in the ground? The Sage, Gateshead. Photograph: IntangibleArts.

The home of St Cuthbert, patron saint of the north of England. FRACKED. Photograph: Lee Bailey.

Preston Park, near Stockton-on-Tees. FRACK IT! Photograph: Justin Pickard.

This church was built on an original Roman shale gas mine. St Hilda's, Hartlepool. Photograph: Swalophoto.

Desolation by night. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead. Photograph: Gail Johnson.

Perhaps most offensive of all, the houses where those wretched northern sprites live. Robin Hood's Bay, North York Moors. Photograph: Arco Ardon.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while he would hold a free vote, party policy would be changed to oppose military action, an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote. Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, members made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbot and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory"approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when the Commons meets. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet. There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.