THERE was nothing specifically in Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement for the North East, a part from more praise lavished upon the mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, whom the Chancellor called “unstoppable”.

Perhaps it was skilled expectation management that caused speculation that there would be real terms cuts to pensions and benefits only for Mr Hunt to give people exactly the rise they were entitled to this leading to the perception he is being generous. However, his cut in National Insurance did go further than expected and is universal in its nature and is welcome – although Britain’s tax take will still be the highest since the Second World War.

Even though the 6.5m people waiting for 7.8m NHS treatments may prefer an appointment than a tax cut, there will at last be a spring in Tory steps – something positive to talk about on the doorstep.

Yet one sly jibe has overtaken all of that. Someone in the vicinity of the Conservative frontbench made a two-syllable remark about Stockton. It was sotto voce but a microphone broadcast it.

Labour has listened back to the two syllables and found in them one of the most insulting words, and is pointing the finger at Home Secretary James Cleverly as being the hoarse whisperer. He, though, denies it – but someone said something.

It was presumably meant to be funny, but Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham was making an extremely serious point, asking why, after 13 years of Conservative government, 34 per cent of children in his constituency are in poverty. It is a question that deserves a serious answer and not a glib toss-off, and Stockton does not deserve to be condemned by ridicule. Sure, it has its problems but it also has its fine people, and it is trying to make the best of itself through its glorious Globe and its truly ambitious town centre renewal.

It is the two syllable insult that will be remembered on the doorsteps rather than the two per cent National Insurance cut come polling day.