'We are in pole position to win Berwick', says Michael Gove as chancellor prepares A1 announcement

The former education secretary told The Journal Conservative MPs had done more for the North East than their Labour counterparts

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Michael Gove
Michael Gove

Labour has said its MPs will “take no lessons” from Tory chief whip Michael Gove after he accused them of failing to win investment for the North East.

Speaking exclusively to The Journal, the divisive politician claimed Conservatives were more effective in fighting the region’s corner and said his party’s rivals were not doing their job.

But Labour immediately hit back and said disproportionate cuts - supported by the region’s Conservatives - had drained money from the region to Tory strongholds in the South.

In comments destined to aggravate his Labour colleagues, the former Education Secretary said: “It is striking that even though there is strong representation in the North East from Labour, the MPs that punch above their weight are the Conservatives.

“MPs like Guy Opperman and James Wharton, in terms of making sure that the case for the North East is heard, do better and do more than many Labour MPs here to make sure we get the investment.”

The senior Tory’s comments comes as George Osborne is set to announce cash to dual the A1 north of Newcastle in December’s Autumn Statement, something which Mr Gove insists Berwick parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives and A1 campaigner Anne-Marie Trevelyan should take credit for.

“There are some lovely people that represent Labour here but they are not doing a good enough job for the North East,” he said.

“They are punching below their weight and it is Conservative MPs that have been the more effective advocates and that have been responsible for securing investment.

“Most of the Labour MPs have not been nearly as effective.”

Labour said thousands of vulnerable people are struggling to cope after severe local authority grant cuts and measures such as the bedroom tax.

Kevan Jones MP
Kevan Jones MP

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, said MPs such as Phil Wilson in Sedgefield - who has been a key figure in news that Hitachi are set to employ hundreds of people to build trains at their factory in County Durham’s Newton Aycliffe - had been instrumental in winning jobs and investment.

He said: “It is a fact that the major investment and public spending under this Government has been skewed to Tory heartlands.

“Any major announcements on infrastructure have mainly been re-announcements of projects that had already been put in place.

“What we haven’t been doing is supporting a Government which has slashed public spending in the North East in favour of Tory heartlands.”

A Labour spokesman added: “This Tory-led government, backed by their MPs in the region, have presided over measures which have hit this region hard. Families are £1600 worse off a year with thousands of the most vulnerable hit by the unfair bedroom tax.

“One of the first things this government did was scrap vital funding for new schools, hospitals and road improvements for the region, so we will take no lessons from Mr Gove.”

Mr Gove’s visit to the Berwick upon Tweed constituency is more evidence of the Tory thirst to win a second Northumberland seat, after Guy Opperman secured Hexham in 2010.

Chancellor George Osborne, Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude have all visited the constituency within the last three months as Sir Alan Beith prepares to stand down at the General Election in May.

“Anne Marie Trevelyan did a brilliant job last time round of narrowing the gap between us and the Lib Dems’ Sir Alan Beith,” said Mr Gove.

“Anne Marie is now in pole position to win. She made a very powerful business case to George for the A1 and hopefully we will be in a position to deliver.”


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