May 11, 2021 - 7:00am

There’s a stereotype of England’s North-Eastern cities as left-behind, backward-facing, clinging to a long-gone industrial past. Some Labour politicians have even tried to play up to this image too, but it could not, says Teeside’s newly re-elected mayor Ben Houchen, be further from the truth. According to Houchen, who won 73% of the Teeside vote in last week’s by-election, voters in Hartlepool and Teesside aren’t nostalgic, they are looking to the future. His ambition is to turn Teesside into the Silicon Valley of the UK.

On the doorstep,¬†people were telling me,we want you to pull down the steelworks”. My Labour opponent wanted to keep it as a monument and people thought it was crazy. We have nearly 200 years of steel and iron making heritage on Teesside. People are saying “well, that’s fine, and it’s something we should be proud of but that doesn’t put food on my table”…it’s about pairing that pride and using that expertise so that we can future-proof it. That’s why I’m confident that if we continue in the direction that we’re going in 10 years time, Teesside will be one of the world’s centres for low carbon green technologies and become synonymous with Silicon Valley in the US.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On the Labour disconnect:

There’s absolutely a huge disconnect with the Labour Party to areas like Teesside and the North-East. They have moved away from what was culturally and traditionally in alignment with the local people… It’s very insular, inward-looking navel-gazing that the Labour Party has been going through over the last five or six years at least, which has caused them a huge problem and is something they still really struggle with.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On the ideology of Teesside:

There is a social democrat twinge to people in Teesside. They are socially conservative but by and large, they are much more centrist when it comes to economic policies than elsewhere in the country. People are less wedded to the ideological rights and wrongs of economic policy; they’re more interested in outcomes. It’s not because people don’t have beliefs in those things, but we are an area that has been neglected for many decades by governments of both colours.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On Teeside’s patriotism

There is a huge pride both historically and currently for our armed forces, the UK, the queen, and the flag. I would suggest if people did some pretty serious polling on those ideas, we would probably come out close to if not top compared to most areas of the country.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On the Teesside freeport:

General Electric have decided that it’s more cost effective to come to Teesside and build a brand new facility, rather than expand the existing facility in Cherbourg, France because the freeport status saves them tens of millions of pounds in capital expenditure. These are exactly the type of jobs we want to create.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On Milton Friedman’s influence:

One of the things that informed my politics around commercial delivery was actually something that Milton Friedman said a long time ago, which there is no difference in the way the public and private sectors are run. Because they’re all people…Ultimately, the problem you find with government organisations is that once they begin to fail, they’re not allowed to fail, and they then get subsidised…We’ve been very clear with the public, for example, on the airport. We’ve said, this is a risk, and we are going to do it because that’s what you voted for me to do, but it could still fail.
- Ben Houchen, UnHerd

On wallpapergate:

The people ridicule the media for concentrating on it and they ridicule the picture of Keir Starmer in the shop with his roll of wallpaper. They just think it’s a very London centric.