Honesty is the best policy in my view. That is something I have told my daughter many times, so she understands that coming clean and apologising when you have said or done something wrong is the right thing to do. James Cleverly, the Home Secretary has something to learn from this.
Once you start denying or prevaricating you often succeed in making a situation worse.
Prime Minister’s Questions
Such was the case at PMQs last week.
Apparently the Home Secretary, James Cleverly called Alex Cunningham’s constituency (Stockton North) a ‘sh**hole’.
Cleverly denied this accusation outright, then on finding out there was audio of him doing exactly that, his spokesperson then said that he had called Cunningham a ‘sh** MP’ and definitely didn’t refer to Stockton.
That makes it much better, obviously.
However, the audio doesn’t back up Cleverly’s claims. Having listened to it numerous times (as the chamber was noisy, it was difficult to pick up initially) I am certain that he did not say “because you are a sh** MP”.
It is said that “when a person shows who they are, you should believe them”.
It seems that Cleverly didn’t have the decency to admit what he had said, stand up in front of his peers, and make a genuine apology.
As a result, we have all now seen who and what Cleverley is.
What I see is him looking down on those less fortunate, showing contempt for Cunningham and his constituents.
That the Prime Minister gives him his full support speaks to his attitude also.
The reaction locally was quite interesting.
The Tees Valley Mayor immediately called for an apology, kudos to Ben Houchen for this.
Cunningham’s parliamentary neighbour (Matt Vickers MP) used this incident to make a party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party
Locals, when asked, have some dark humour remarking that “if you think Stockton is bad you should see Middlesbrough.”
I suppose what is most galling is, no matter the reality, that the insult comes from a cabinet minister who has been at the top table whilst decisions affecting Stockton negatively are being made.
It is well known that since 2020, council funding, especially in already deprived areas, has been slashed.
For example, in 2010/11 Stockton received £120 million from central government, but by 2015/16 this was down to £68 million, meaning that terrible decisions on what Stockton Council could and could not afford had to be made.
We need to remember that Rishi Sunak was proudly stating that he had changed the treasury formulas to take money away from towns like Stockton to give it to Tory heartlands.
Heartbreaking levels of child poverty
Stockton is now one of the areas with heartbreaking levels of child poverty.
Foodbanks are a lifeline here, and it is a disgrace and a stain on this government that in a wealthy country in 2023 they not only exist but are essential. They should be ashamed that there are five organisations providing either free or heavily discounted food.
Stockton Council has finally, at the third time of asking, been given some ‘levelling up’ funding from central government for Stockton North.
Sadly it is a drop in the ocean compared to the funding that the David Cameron and George Osborne austerity policy took away. It is also meagre compared to the cash the Conservative MP of Stockton South was able to acquire.
A cynical person may suggest that there has been a level of bias when deciding where to allocate funds.
Is Stockton a sh**hole?
As a resident of Stockton on Tees, I can absolutely confirm that parts might indeed be described as a bit ‘sh***y’.
The same, however, could be said about parts of every town up and down the country.
The fact that a cabinet minister can say these things is a relief in a way.
We have seen by their actions what they think, at least they are saying the quiet bits out loud.
However, Cleverly seems to believe that Stockton is a ‘sh**hole’ and he doesn’t seem to care.
We Teessiders do care, we love our area and I say to Cleverly, the quicker we get people like you voted out of office the quicker our country will improve.
James Cleverly has apologised for using inappropriate language in parliament. He still denies that he was describing the constituency.