Election night

IT could all have been so different for Stuart Drummond who revealed he had originally planned to stand in the 2001 General Election.

But because the town’s then MP, Peter Mandelson, was also honorary president of Hartlepool United, the club’s colourful mascot instead decided to stand in the 2002 mayoral election, with the promise of free bananas to school children.

Mayor Drummond – who also revealed he would not have stood to be mayor again - beat off stiff competition from Labour’s Leo Gillen to win by just 633 votes.

He said: “When I was mascot I was always looking for something new to do for a bit of a laugh and to bring a bit of publicity to the club.

“I originally wanted to stand in the General Election but Peter Mandelson was the MP and honorary president of Pools and the club didn’t want to step on his toes.

“The whole thing about the mascot was to put a smile on people’s faces. I didn’t expect to win.

“I could have pulled out but thought it isn’t every day you stand in an election and it was something to tick off the bucket list.”

He added: “When the result was announced it wasn’t so much what was going through my mind but what was going through my underpants.

“I hadn’t prepared at all and it was daunting but I thought what a great opportunity and lets give it a go.”

The 39-year-old said the “magnitude” of the role was never lost on him, especially when facing 90 journalists and 10 television cameras the day after being elected.

He said: “It turned quite nasty and the tabloids accused me of conning the people of Hartlepool but I came through it with a few bruises and thought if I can survive that, I can survive anything.”

Mayor Drummond added: “I was blessed that the public of Hartlepool put a collective arm around me and saw me as one of them.”

He likened the first year to doing “five or six masters degrees” at the same time and said putting all the pieces together was like doing a “massive jigsaw”.

But he decided to stand again three years later and his majority rocketed to more than 10,000, again beating Labour opposition.

That victory gave him the “confidence and strong mandate” to push-ahead and said there was a positive “sea change” amongst councillors.

Mayor Drummond made it a hat-trick in June 2009 with a narrow victory over independent rival Ian Cameron.

He said privately he knew his third term would be his last even if the November referendum had voted to retain the mayoral system.

He added: “I made the decision five years ago that I was only having one more term and told the people close to me, but that is irrelevant now.”

Mayor Drummond admits to being “disappointed” with the 18 per cent turn out in the referendum and said: “It either shows people didn’t know or didn’t care.”

l Tomorrow: Mayor Drummond talks about his highs and lows, his decision to axe cabinet members and his take on the chairman’s position at Cleveland Police Authority.