But in 2010, when it launched the competition, it said that among the things it would consider would be the history of a town, its vibrancy, identity and community.
It’s hard not to be disappointed. Chelmsford is England’s newest city, together with Perth in Scotland and St Asaph in Wales (and some new arrangements for Armagh in Northern Ireland). Although Chelmsford is Essex’s first city, it seems odd that other towns, like Gateshead or Bolton (quite aside from Middlesbrough), which had good cases have been passed over. In fact, it seems that the choices are all slightly off -kilter in some way.
What is remarkable now is that Teesside must now be one of, if not the single largest urban conurbation in the UK not to contain a city of any description. If you count Hartlepool, the Teesside region contains nearly half a million people. Without it, the figure drops to just under 400,000. And if ever a place needed some form of relief from the coalition’s clueless economic pounding, it is Teesside.
The plain fact is that, on its own, a Middlesbrough bid for city status is never going to succeed. Maybe it’s because the assaults on the town over the years have hardened a siege mentality that others interpret as insular. Maybe the town’s ambitions are simply not great enough any longer. Who can say? But for city status to be conferred it looks like there would have to be a concerted bid by both Middlesbrough and Stockton for joint status. It just about works for Budapest, so why not for the People’s Republic of Teesside?