Stockton residents say their town is full of 'decent' people

‘It might be a sh**hole, but it’s OUR sh**hole’: Stockton residents say their market town may be in major need of regeneration, but it’s full of ‘decent’ hardworking people

Stockton residents have reacted to James Cleverly’s alleged stab at their hometown, saying it may be in need of major regeneration but it’s full of ‘decent’ hardworking people.

The Home Secretary was accused of using the slur in the Commons, although sources close to him insist he was actually referring to a Labour MP, who he called a ‘s***’. He denies making the comment about the town.

Today, locals in Stockton – a market town of 84,000 people in County Durham – gave an insight into what it’s really like to live there, with new mother Shannon Burton, 27, from Roseworth, saying: ‘It’s full of nice, decent people.’

But she said there were problems with the town, adding it’s ‘sad’ that ‘drugs are a real problem here and there aren’t many facilities for young people. It needs investment.’

Her mother, Lavinia Burton, 56, added: ‘People here are doing their best to get by.’ 

New mother Shannon Burton, 27, said that if Stockton is a sh**hole ‘it’s become one under this government’

Kevin Lewis, 57, is a life-long Stockton resident but he does not disagree with Mr Cleverly’s alleged comment about the town

Kathleen Simm, 60, who has lived in Stockton her whole life, admitted that it was a  s***hole 

According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), economic inactivity in Stockton-on-Tees is at 24.7 per cent from ages 16 to 64

She added: ‘I thought it was a disgraceful thing to say.’

Nearly a quarter of people in Stockton aged 16 to 64 are classed as economically inactive – meaning they do not have a job and are not looking for one. 

However, the unemployment rate is 4.1 per cent, which is slightly lower than across the North East as a whole. 

Lavinia Burton thought Mr Cleverly’s comment was ‘disgraceful’

This represents the number of people who are looking for a job but can’t find one. 

Kevin Lewis, 57, is a life-long Stockton resident. He said: ‘The town is full of drunks and beggars who pester you everywhere you go.

‘Even at this time in the morning you see them everywhere and it brings the reputation of the place down even further,’ he said. 

However Mr Lewis said that calling the town a s***hole ‘was a bit strong’ but admits that it’s hard to disagree when you take a look around the area. 

He added that the High Street is ‘so quiet’ compared to a couple of years ago and says that the area has ‘gone downhill’. 

More than 1,200 crimes have been reported in Stockton Town Centre alone, as per Cleveland Police statistics from September this year. 

The most reported crime in this area was violence and sexual offences (391) followed by anti-social behaviour (185) and shoplifting (126). 

Kathleen Simm, 60, was of the same mind as Mr Lewis and said: ‘The thing is, he’s right, Stockton is a s***hole and that’s coming from someone who has lived here all my life.’

‘But the thing is, it’s our hometown. We don’t need politicians saying that when no money gets spent to make it a better place for people to live.’

Edyta Gil, 49, made Stockton her home 17 years ago when she moved to the town from Wroclaw, Poland and says everything has slowly shut down

Stuart Dutton, 68, and wife Carol, 76, were visiting Stockton for the day and admitted that they had seen worse areas

Ms Simm added that the shops around her are closing down and the people there are ‘struggling’ because there is ‘no work’ available.  

Edyta Gil, 49, made Stockton her home 17 years ago when she moved to the town from Wroclaw, Poland.

The care home worker said: ‘When I moved here I found the people and the town to be a very welcoming place. We moved with my husband’s job and to be honest I thought the place was nice and I liked it very much.

‘There was a big market on the high street every Wednesday and Saturday and it was a really busy place.

‘But slowly everything has shut down. Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Boots and other main stores all closed one by one and now, really, there’s nothing left to come into town for.

‘Stockton has been left behind but for some Government MP to say that about it is just wrong. The question that should be asked of them is what are you going to do about it?’

Stuart Dutton, 68, and wife Carol, 76, were visiting Stockton for the day and admitted that they had seen worse areas, even calling their own town Goole ‘a s***hole’.

Mr Dutton said: ‘My first impression of the place is that it looks quite nice. There are plenty of shops and they’ve really made an effort with the Christmas decorations.

‘It’s completely wrong for any politician to use a term like that against any town, especially the ones in the north that are struggling.

‘But what chance to high streets like that have when people only shop online or go to the big supermarkets? It’s killing off the town centres, but I’ve seen worse than this.’ 

Ms Dutton then chipped in and said: ‘We’re from Goole – now that is a s***hole.’ 

Mr Cleverly has been under pressure to say sorry following the alleged slur about Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s Stockton North constituency. 

But a source close to Mr Cleverly said his off-the-cuff remark in the Commons had been directed towards the MP, rather than his constituency.

‘James made a comment. He called Alex Cunningham a sh** MP. He apologises for unparliamentary language,’ the source said.

‘As was made clear yesterday, he would never criticise Stockton. He’s campaigned in Stockton and is clear that it is a great place.’

More than 1,200 crimes have been reported in Stockton Town Centre alone, as per Cleveland Police statistics from September this year

Mr Cleverly had come under pressure to apologise over the alleged Stockton insult, including from a fellow senior Conservative.

Tees Valley’s Tory mayor Lord Ben Houchen said it was ‘clear’ he should say sorry for ‘dragging Stockton’s name through the mud’.

The mayor condemned ‘childish and unprofessional language used by Westminster politicians who should know better’.

Labour MP Mr Cunningham alleged the comment was made about his constituency during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Cleverly was accused of making the remark after Mr Cunningham had challenged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over the level of child poverty in his North East seat. 

Yesterday, Mr Cunningham said the audio of the comment was ‘clear and has been checked and checked and checked again’.

The issue was also raised in the Commons on Thursday, with Labour calling for an apology from Mr Cleverly.

Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell said: ‘Besmirching another honourable member’s constituency goes against all the courtesies of this place and it is utterly disrespectful to their constituents.’

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt replied: ‘With regard to the charge she makes against the Home Secretary, he denies it and I believe him.’

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