Whilst in Scotland, we happened to be in Edinburgh for the opening of the Scottish Parliament. We all enjoyed the "riding" as representatives from local community groups, performers, and more pipe bands than you could shake a sporran at, made their way down the hill.
It was a display of a confident, outward-looking community - the parade included a group with a Chinese dragon, a Hindi band and ethnic Turks or Romanians, all proudly waving their flags of St Andrew.
It got me thinking again about the North East's own missed opportunity in 2004. I was an unashamed campaigner for the regional assembly, leafleting fruitlessly in Darlington, Stockton and Middlesbrough (where I was thrown off the railway station as it wasn't "public property", but that's another story).
Of course, the failure had its roots in the timid powers proposed by Westminster, and the lacklustre 'Yes' campaign which thought that a fuzzy sense of North East identity would seemlesly transfer into votes for the assembly.
The killer blow was exacted however by the "No" campaign with its brilliantly-conceived inflatable white elephant, which knowingly tapped into and exploited voters' cynicism about politicians in general.
As the Sedgefield by-election approaches, remember that it was the Consercatives and their fellow-travellers on the extreme Europhobic right convinced that the North East Assembly was part of some vast Brussels plot, who scuppered the plan. An initiative that would have brought some democratic accountability to the workings of central government in the North East was thus torpedoed.
I mention this now too, of course, because one of the prime movers behind the No campaign, Graham Robb, is now the Tories' candidate in the by-election. In 2004 he told us all politicians are the same sleazy bunch, and the assembly was simply a case of "jobs for the boys". Now he will be trying to convince Sedgefield voters that in fact politicains are white knights who can make a real differerence to the local community.
Graham is a brilliant PR businessman, (and a blogger to boot) but he will need all his skills and more if he is to pull that one off.