FORMER Hartlepool MP Peter Mandelson officially launched a new nursery when he made a return to the town this week.
Lord Mandelson, who was invited to open the new Skills Academy at Hartlepool College of Further Education, made time to cut the ribbon at the Elwick Road-based Ready Steady Grow! before making his way to the new-look Stockton Street college.
The day-care centre, for up to 45 youngsters, is run by sisters Helen and Caroline Blackwood-Wallace, who are the daughters of Lord Mandelson’s former agent, Steve Wallace, now chairman of NHS Hartlepool.
Manager Helen said: “We were really pleased that Peter took the time to come to visit and to officially cut the ribbon to our day-care centre.
“It’s funny to think I’ve known him since I was five years old – I remember being completely confused when he came to our house at the same time he was on TV during his first election campaign in 1992.”
Deputy manager Caroline added: “It was nice to see him again.
“He used to often invite Labour members to his house for social events and would hide sweets and treats around the place for all us kids to hunt. I was tempted to hide a couple of chocolate bars for him to find.”
Lord Mandelson said: “Helen and Caroline were two of my youngest and keenest activists – I have a photo of them folding my leaflets taken when Caroline was just three years old – and I am keen to support them in return.
“Ventures such as this were exactly the sort of thing I strongly backed as Trade Secretary and EU Trade Commissioner.”
l STUDENTS’ delight at Lord Mandelson’s visit – see tomorrow’s Mail for more pictures.