Oops... Is Tyneside really a city?

Appointing a shadow minister for Tyneside was meant to tell the North-East once and for all that the Tories really cared about the region.

Appointing a shadow minister for Tyneside was meant to tell the North-East once and for all that the Tories really cared about the region.

However, last night the gesture appeared to have blown up in their faces, when the man charged with looking after the area suggested Tyneside was a city.

When he was first given the job several months ago, Alan Duncan readily admitted he didn't know too much about the area.

But he was willing to learn, he said, and had a great enthusiasm for the region.

He may still have the enthusiasm but in an interview with the BBC Daily Politics programme yesterday, he's revealed his learning curve has not been too steep by appearing to suggest Tyneside was a city.

"A few months ago David Cameron said everyone in the shadow cabinet will also have a city.

"I've got Tyneside and I've been up there a few times and I absolutely love it and I'm going to really concentrate on it in the next few months," he said.

Then he added further to the confusion by appearing to believe there was a University of Tyneside.

"I was in Tyneside at the university last week and there was amazing enthusiasm and do you know what, it's all the Labour supporting students who are hiding," Mr Duncan told the BBC.

Labour was of course quick to offer the former Harvard-educated oil trader help with his geography, promising to send the 49-year-old a map of the North-East.

"We wish Alan Duncan the best of luck in his search for the city of Tyneside," a spokeswoman for Labour North said.

Mr Duncan, however, fiercely denied he did not know his new area.

He said the party had been "sensitive" to local feelings - and had therefore not just focused on Newcastle.

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