Many people have complained to me about how the BBC portrayed Hartlepool on ‘The One Show’ last week (Thursday, July 19) and I understand their upset.
It was lazy journalism with very little substance and filmed on the cheap.
Most complainants cited the fact that the backdrop of the boarded-up Engineers Club (conveniently next door to the Job Centre) made the town look downtrodden and shoddy, which I agree with.
In reality, however, without direct intervention some parts of the area are beginning to reflect that description and that is why I agree entirely that the back to basics approach by the council to clean up, make safe and regenerate our communities is the right thing to do.
The Government has hammered local authorities to the point of decimation and yet they hide behind countless obligations placed upon councils, making them prioritise things like children’s and adult services above everything else and therefore making it increasingly more and more difficult to focus on anything else.
The BBC programme was made when Hartlepool topped the national unemployment table, and for all the reasons I’ve previously mentioned, I’m pleased that we no longer hold that unfortunate accolade.
However, going back to ‘The One Show’, I must say that all of those interviewed reflected the reality about being unemployed in Hartlepool and none of them let us down; in fact it had the opposite effect on me when it came to judging the broadcast fully because their clear desire and willingness to work, their hope, aspirations and confidence shone through.
I have said it time and time again. The people of Hartlepool are decent folk. Young and old alike they are from working stock and want to work. We are not the run-down town as portrayed by the programme.
Meeting Stuart Drummond by chance at Westminster tube station last week, the former elected Mayor of Hartlepool, reminded me of the uniqueness and quintessential thing about coming from Hartlepool.
Stuart won his first term of office by standing as H’Angus the Monkey, the local football mascot, and won a second term thereafter as himself.
Only in Hartlepool could we elect a ‘Monkey Mayor’, although to give him his due, and good luck to him, Stuart is Hartlepool through and through.
We attract the national media here for all sorts of reasons and recently that’s included Channel 5’s ‘Rich House Poor House’ and a Channel 4 documentary on Universal Credit, but we stand tall above all the mockery, wise cracks, jokes about hanging the monkey and subtle media denigration – we are a united and strong set of people who will not be vilified, mocked or put down, we are at one when it comes to speaking up for our own, we have our own distinct identity, pride and faith in our future, which is why I’m glad that shoddy and cheap though it was, the BBC’s ‘One Show’ did end on a positive note with one man declaring that one day he will get a job.
My job is to make that happen for the countless numbers of people I’ve come across in the town who want work and I’m doing my utmost to make it happen.
That is why I’m not only fighting to consolidate businesses and existing jobs here, but am pushing for further investment in the town.
Companies are wanting to come here and there is plenty of good news around the corner if we get it right. Let’s hope we do just that.
Finally, what a thrill it was to attend the Hartlepool Waterfront Festival at the weekend; so many people coming together to simply relax and have a good time ahead of the school holidays.
It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying themselves and it was truly a credit to the organisers.