There is mounting criticism towards James Cleverly for his offensive remarks made in Parliament. Despite his explanation that he was personally attacking the MP from the area and not the Labour-held constituency being met with doubt.
Following criticism from Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, for his use of what was deemed “immature and unprofessional” language, Labour MP Alex Cunningham expressed doubt in the statements made by the home secretary.
During the prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Cunningham, the representative for Stockton North, questioned Rishi Sunak by asking, “Why is the poverty rate for children in my constituency at 34%?”
During a later point of discussion in the assembly, Cunningham reported that Cleverly had stated, “Because it’s a terrible place.” Recorded audio with unclear sound appeared to support this statement.
The spokesperson for Cleverly stated that at the time, he did not say or imply what he was being accused of and was disappointed by the accusations.
On Thursday, a reliable source close to Cleverly provided a different explanation of the events: “James made a remark in which he referred to Alex Cunningham as a poor MP. He expresses regret for using inappropriate language. As was clarified yesterday, he has no intention of speaking negatively about Stockton. He has actively campaigned there and believes it to be a wonderful place.”
According to Cunningham on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, the reasoning provided is not believable. He expressed doubt, stating, “I do not trust him.” Earlier today, the Conservative party leader denied the use of the word in the House of Commons. It is difficult to accept their statements.
“I stand by my statement that he needs to address the House of Commons, publicly apologize to the people of Stockton, and take responsibility for his actions, as confirmed by witnesses.”
Downing Street maintained that Sunak had confidence in Cleverly, but was unable to confirm if the prime minister agreed with the explanation.
Just before the updated statement was released, Houchen stated on Twitter: “I am not concerned with excuses and I will prioritize our region over political parties. It is obvious to me that the Home Secretary should apologize for tarnishing the reputation of Stockton.”
In recent years, Teesside has experienced significant growth and development, with substantial investments and the creation of numerous job opportunities. This has positioned the region for success in emerging industries, such as steel production. However, using this type of language perpetuates outdated and inaccurate stereotypes that we have been working to overcome for years.
“We are a fantastic destination and a dedicated and enthusiastic community, with people from around the globe eagerly anticipating the promising future that lies ahead of us. However, the immature and unprofessional language used by politicians in Westminster, who should demonstrate better judgment, only hinders our efforts towards progress.”
In a subsequent post, Houchen expressed satisfaction with Cleverly’s apology, stating: “Regardless of the details, the rumors tarnished Stockton’s reputation, which is not acceptable. We all make mistakes as humans and he is a decent person who has acknowledged his error.”
On Thursday, the Labour party brought up the matter once more during a session in the House of Commons. Lucy Powell, the opposition leader in the House of Commons, expressed her disapproval, stating that it is impolite and disrespectful to refer to another member’s constituency in a negative manner.
Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, responded by stating that the Home Secretary denies the accusation and she believes him.