Plymouth is an absolute dump, says MP for rival city
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."
MP INVITED TO PLYMOUTH TO APOLOGISE FOR HIS COMMENTS
A POLITICIAN suggested that rival cities bidding to become City of Culture – including Plymouth – are dumps has been invited to visit our city to see how wrong he is.
David Amess, MP for Southend-on-Sea, referred to his constituency's ten rivals for the 2017 prize as "absolute dumps" and said they "wouldn't know culture if it was put in front of them."
Reacting to Mr Amess' outburst, South West Devon MP Gary Streeter said: "I know David Amess well. He has clearly not been to Plymouth recently. I will be inviting him to visit us so he can see for himself the delights of our city and apologise."
Alison Seabeck, MP for Plymouth Moor View, told The Herald Mr Amess was "pushing his luck".
She said: "He stood up and said something along those lines in the House of Commons a few weeks ago and I thought 'I'm not having that'.
"So I stood up and said 'I am from Essex and I believe Plymouth is beautiful.'
"As someone who was born in Essex I do know Southend, I spent weekends there by the sea, and for me there's no competition. Plymouth wins hands down."
Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, added: "He has quite obviously not spoken to his fellow MP for Southend, whose father-in-law happens to be Jack Thompson, who used to be a Plymouth city councillor until last year. It seems that he has not been down here but I am going to invite him to come and see the great culture on offer."
Mr Colvile added: "He is obviously an Essex boy and he is representing his Essex constituency. Southend is very nice – although I am reminded of the quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Arthur Dent thought he had died and gone to hell but had ended up by the sea in Southend."
Mr Amess' comments sparked dozens of online comments.
Sonya Williams wrote: "Think he needs to go Specsavers. I am not a Plymothian but I have lived here for 12 years and consider Plymouth as my home. I would never move back to my home town of Nottingham."
And Tracey Needham wrote: "Correct me if I'm wrong but we've never had a trashy TV show made out of our city labelling us all as air headed fake tan addicts!
"What a way to try and win, by slating all the competition! Clever!"