I read a news story this morning about the search for 'crazed gunman' Raoul Moat, in which the police, described Mr Moat as having "a Northern accent".
Now, I'm only an ignorant southerner, whose attempts at accents from Cheshire to Sunderland all come out as 'generic Northern', but surely this identification advice from the police is next to useless.
First of all, if a wild-eyed, crazy man jumps out and points a gun at you, I think the best tactic would be to duck, run or pray. You're not going to say "hold on, old chap, can you just say something so I can ascertain your geographical origins".
Secondly, if Moat is elsewhere in the country, trying to blend in (maybe he's wearing a wig, or a Groucho moustache) and he asks you directions, you're not going to know whether it's him or not, are you? "Northern accent"? That's too vague. OK, I guess from the news footage that the guy might be a Geordie. And those in the know can probably discern a Newcastle accent from a Sunderland or Durham or Darlington twang. But for all we know, he lives in the north-east, but was actually brought up in Manchester, or Liverpool, or the Lake District.
Thinking about it, from where I live, a rural Berkshire accent (yes, there is one) counts as "northern".
So - be careful Northerners. Because of the police's slapdash advice, you might be fingered as a crazed gunman at any second. I expect to read reports of Stuart Maconie, Ian MacMillan, David 'Bumble' Lloyd and the Big Brother voice-over man being hauled in for questioning...
PS - Raoul is a funny name for a gunman, isn't it? "Raoul". It brings to mind a camp maitre'd in a Californian restaurant rather than a burly, homicidal maniac. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course!