‘I’m more Northern than you’: MPs fury as Michael Gove responds to Levelling Up worries

Michael Gove was responding to MP questions about the Levelling Up Fund

Earlier this week, Secretary for State Michael Gove said there was "no one more Northern than me" as he brushed off Levelling Up worries shared by North East MPs.

The discussion took place on Wednesday, February 2, with fall-out from the comments continuing online throughout the week.

Both Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central and Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields referenced past comments made by Mr Gove.

The two referenced unearthed recordings where the Secretary for State praised Margaret Thatcher's policies that "stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner”.

Ms Onwurah said: "The recordings which emerged today of the Secretary of State talking of 'dirty, toothless Northerners' certainly deserve an apology.

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"But isn't today's statement just a continuation of that abuse.

"Everyone in the North East gets little pots of recycled money and ambitions like local public transport will be significantly closer to London in 2030.

"Eight years, not even to catch up with London buses, what kind of ambition is that?"

Mr Gove refused to accept the MP's accusations of disregard for the North East, responding by flaunting his own Northern roots.

He said: "Speaking as an Aberdonian and someone who is born further North than most people in this house, I can say there is no one more Northern than me.

"Thinking particularly about the situation that she outlines, one of the things that we have outlined in the White Paper today are proposals to ensure that the current North of Tyne Mayor can work with local authorities in the South of Tyneside, in Gateshead and elsewhere to achieve precisely the goals she wants."

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Ms Onwurah shook her head in frustration as the Secretary replied.

When Ms Lewell-Buck spoke to Mr Gove, she also referenced the politician's past comments.

She said: "We've suffered Tory cuts of nearly £200 million.

"Tinkering with our governance alone won't change a thing.

"The Secretary of State once praised policies that, in his own words, led to the happy South stamping over the cruel, toothless face of the Northener.

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"Is he proud that he's managed to do exactly the same again today?"

Mr Gove delivered a short response, again referencing the change in authority collaboration.

Also in the commons, Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne North, used the moment to speak on child poverty in the area and ask why that wasn't a higher priority for the Levelling Up Fund.