AS a young reporter for The Northern Echo in the 1980s, I found myself covering a particularly petty and acrimonious period in the history of Darlington Borough Council.

There was a toxic mix of councillors, who all wanted the final say, and didn’t flinch at personal, party political attacks.

It became very, very tedious and council meetings got into the habit of droning on until the early hours of the morning. One lasted until 3am and a particularly provocative councillor turned up in his pyjamas, with a bowl of breakfast cereal.

In the end, it reached the point where the reporters representing the interests of The Northern Echo, Evening Despatch, and Darlington & Stockton Times (yes, we had our own independent staff in those days) agreed that enough was enough.

We drew the line at midnight and made a pact to down our pens and pack up our notebooks. Funnily enough, once we did that, the gobby councillors saw little point in dragging out debates. No publicity, no political point scoring, let’s all go home. After all, we all had sleep to catch up on – real lives to live.

Alas, those memories came flooding back when I read The Northern Echo’s report of a council meeting stretching into its seventh hour, and exploding into personal attacks, during a political debate over the return of a public firework display in South Park.

I found myself sighing with despair, that nearly 40 years on, we were still embroiled in nasty, pathetic, self-indulgent local government.

Don’t they understand that this is what turns local people off politics? It’s what leads to disillusioned voters electing Mayors in monkey suits on a local level, and false-tanned megalomaniacs on the international stage?

We continue to be struggling in the midst of a global pandemic, with people desperately worried about the future, and looking for trusted, dignified, reasoned leadership.

Politicians at all levels need to remember that – and behave like grown-ups. Otherwise, they deserve a rocket up their backsides.