When MP Amber Rudd blogged a video about how all was well with Hastings, a number of residents took exception to her analysis. Local actor Sabina Arthur decided to produce her own tongue-in-cheek video in a similar style, also set on the Pier. This is a transcript of how she and her colleagues responded to their MP
Amber, it was a surprise to see your video at the weekend, but I wanted to give you a proper response, so I’ve brought along some friends to really highlight some of the things that you don’t seem to know about Hastings – because I’m concerned that you think that points that your own constituents are making about our town being left behind have nothing to do with Hastings.
As our council budgets continue to suffer from Conservative government cuts, we’re very fortunate to have received funding from other sources including the EU and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
I’m standing on one of the fantastic icons of Hastings, the pier. The award-winning pier, of which we’re all so proud, which was rebuilt and reopened in 2016 after receiving 12.4 million pounds of Heritage Lottery Funding and investment from 3,000
local people, only to go into administration and be sold off for a reported £50,000 two years later.
But you’re right, despite being one of the most deprived areas in the country, with 35% of households living in poverty, we have lots to celebrate in Hastings. We do have a phenomenal arts community, music community; but unfortunately, most artists are expected to create their work for very little, or no money at all. And with Conservative cuts to arts education nationally, we don’t know where our future artists will come from.
But enough from me, let’s hear from a few others about how Hastings is being held back from being so fantastic.
That’s right, 44% of pupils in Hastings achieve expected levels in reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2. That’s 10% below the national average.
And 50% of pupils achieve A* to C in both English and Maths GCSE compared with 63% in all of England.
And can I just add that we have 6% unemployment in Hastings compared with 3.4% in the rest of the South East.
And 17.5% of people who work are in receipt of in-work benefits compared with the South East average of 8.3%.
And I really love Hastings for its strong sense of community. Local people have continued to donate to our foodbank, which has seen an 82% increase in usage during your government’s universal credit roll-out.
And as a commuter, I’m disappointed to see so many delays and cancellations on our train lines, with punctuality as low as 67% on some services to the capital this year.
And I love the £8m investment that East Sussex County Council has put into Hastings library – thanks to a community petition presented to the county council in 2006, four years before you became an MP.
So there you have it. Lots of fantastic things have taken place in Hastings, really giving this town fantastic push, enthusiasm and potential for the future. But it’s not helpful to only acknowledge the good that’s going on in Hastings and ignore the problems here. We need a representative who will engage with us, recognise the difficulties we face, and take responsibility for working with us to improve them.
We agree with you Amber, we are not left behind; we are being held back by your Conservative government. It’s disingenuous to suggest that criticism of the devastating effects of underfunding in Hastings is the same as criticising Hastings itself. We too are proud and excited by our town and the opportunities we’ll have here when we elect an MP who is in touch with local issues. That’s why your majority was reduced from almost 5,000 to 346 in last year’s General Election.
So, if you’re still around for the next General Election, we’ll be happy to discuss all of this with you. But I fear you might be on your way back in the train studying how to make better propaganda videos.
But we won’t be interested in that, we’re interested in our wonderful town and its huge opportunities, marching forward.
Yeah, bye-bye, Amber (All laugh)
• See Amber Rudd’s video Tweet here: https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1020661045474537472
• See Sabrina Arthur’s response here: https://youtu.be/7m_6ndQbvXk
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