Fury after Southend MP brands rival culture bid cities "absolute dumps"
AN MP has sparked controversy by branding rival regions bidding for City of Culture status – including Plymouth – as "absolute dumps".
David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend-on-Sea, made the comment as he pushed for his Essex constituency to win the coveted 2017 title.
Ten other areas are in the running for the prize including Plymouth, Chester, Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay.
Amess claimed during a radio interview that many of Southend's rivals "wouldn't know culture if it was put in front of them".
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He said: "I have looked at some of the competition and frankly they are absolute dumps some of them.
"I better not say more because I'll get into trouble, but I really think it is Southend which jumps out."
Plymouth historian Andrew Jago said: "He's given every other bid a massive boost. Nobody likes to hear their town or city badmouthed."
Artist Steve Clement-Large added: "I imagine the Southend bid team won't be best pleased. That is exactly the sort of thing you should not do.
"So far the rivalry online and in the press has been marked by mutual respect.
"If that is what he said I think it's such a silly thing to have done. It's Plymouth 1 Southend 0, it's a real own goal right at the start of the campaign."
Speaking to The Herald yesterday, Mr Amess said his comments were not meant to be taken seriously.
He said: "Some of it was tongue in cheek and a joke to try to get a public debate about it.
"As the local MP I think Southend is the best of the bidders and I am sure all the other MPs will say their city is too.
"I didn't say all of the other bidders are dumps, but I do think one or two are going to struggle to meet the criteria.
"As far as Plymouth is concerned I think Devon is a wonderful county, it's a beautiful part of the world. I definitely didn't say Plymouth is a dump."
Asked whether he had ever visited Plymouth, Mr Amess said: "I can't remember. I certainly used to drive my mother down there for holidays, but whether I have ever been to Plymouth I don't recall."
Adrian Vinken, chair of the Plymouth culture board, said: "I'm sure everyone involved in the bidding process wants their city to be the best entrant.
"We are proud of Plymouth and remain confident in the strength of the bid we are putting together.
"It's wonderful to see so many cities taking part in the City of Culture competition and taking the process so seriously.
"We wish good luck to all our fellow bidding cities."