HERE’S a happy picture from the Echo last October. It shows leading Darlington politicians who spoke at a Hate Crime Awareness Week rally around the town’s market cross.

It was a symbolic event organised by More In Common Darlington (MICD), to show that all the main parties disavowed inflammatory and divisive speech and were united in wishing to lower the temperature of debate.

It was disappointing, then, to read the story (Echo, June 30) about remarks of retiring mayor Nick Wallis which indicated that matters had deteriorated.

As the Echo said, his remarks follow “bitter recriminations” at a council meeting just before lockdown as female councillors were talked over and jeered.

Last week, after the handover of the mayoral chain, Cllr Wallis said: “It is in the best interests of the people we serve that we reject the bitter polarisation that we see in national and international politics. That’s why some of the personal rancour that I have seen in council over the past 12 months has been so disappointing.”

He believes that changing the council chamber layout, so that opposing councillors face each other as MPs do in the House of Commons, rather than the traditional horseshoe arc “has sometimes created a petty, bickering atmosphere which reflects poorly on us as a council”.

It’s easy to promise to be nicer but harder to remember that when debate gets passionate or personal.

More In Common Darlington would be happy to provide a framed photograph of the late Jo Cox, MP, which could be placed in the council chamber as a reminder of the ripples that can spread from factional hatreds.

Peter Greenwood, More In Common Darlington