WITH ballot papers about to drop through County Durham and Cleveland letterboxes next week, the regional assembly debate enters its final phase.

One opinion poll has suggested that the "No" campaign has edged ahead with more than a third of those polled suggesting they would vote against the assembly proposal. Most interestingly more than a third also suggested there were not sure. There's still lots to play for.

But the lead established by the "No" campaign is not, we believe, surprising.

The "Yes" campaign has been strangely muted. Whether that has been born of complacency, the paucity of cogent argument or simply a lack of tactical nous is not clear. Certainly, the platitudes of a large number of B-list regional celebrities doesn't seem to have carried much weight with the public, who are concerned, rightly we believe, about the cost of an assembly and its inability to make a difference to people's lives.

Whether readers are in sympathy with this newspaper's position on the assembly or not, we would urge them to use their vote between now and November 4. Whatever the outcome, the North-East needs to express itself in the clearest possible way.