A US politician said he did not intend to smear a seaside village in Essex after using an old image to warn voters about the consequences of not supporting Donald Trump.
According to an image circulated widely online, a bleak picture of Jaywick Sands showing unpaved roads and dilapidated homes was posted to the Facebook page of Republican Nick Stella, who is running for Congress in Illinois.
It was accompanied by the message: “Only you can stop this from becoming reality”, however the page now appears to be deleted from the social network site.
Spokeswoman Raquel Mitchell said in a statement: “Our intent was never to smear the town in the photo, now known to us as Jaywick Sands in Essex.
“We never used the name. For us it was an example of a town overburdened by poor governance, which is exactly what we in our district are seeking to prevent at every level.”
The image attacks Stella’s Democrat opponent, and also had a caption reading: “Help President Trump keep America on Track and Thriving.
“We can’t go back to foreclosures, unemployment and economic recession!”
The US midterm elections take place next Tuesday.
The faded seaside village of Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea with a population of around 5,000, was the most deprived neighbourhood in England in 2015, according to a Government report.
The flood-prone town was reported to have chronic levels of unemployment, high levels of crime and poor educational attainment.
But Jaywick councillor Kevin Watson told the Press Association the image used in the campaign advert, from the Brooklands area of the town, was old.
He said: “All the roads down there have been Tarmaced, there’s now fantastic drainage, people are taking pride in their area.
“Things are looking very good in Jaywick, probably the best since it was a holiday destination.
“I’m sure there are quite a few places in America that are just as bad.”
Penelope Read, who made a documentary called Jaywick: A Diamond In The Rough, in 2016, said she was angry the image was used.
The 70-year-old, from Clacton-on-Sea, said: “I’m angry at the injustice. I love Jaywick and I don’t think foreign people should be using our village as a political tool. How dare they?”
Mitchell added: “Leadership matters, and there’s proof all around the world that with the right people in place, conditions can improve. And I’m glad that Jaywick Sands now shares a similar success story.”
Businessman Frank Stedman bought lots of land in the area in the late 1920s and built temporary holiday homes which were used for cheap trips by London’s East Enders through the 1930s.
However, as people moved there permanently in the 1940s, the cheaply built holiday homes struggled to cope.
In 1953, more than 30 villagers drowned in the horrendous North Sea Floods.