Blackpool Council leader condemns minister’s comments labelling town ‘godawful’

Heather Wheeler has apologised for the remark.

11 June 2022

A Tory minister’s comments describing Blackpool as “godawful” were “ignorant” and “ill-advised”, the leader of the town’s council has said.

Heather Wheeler, the MP for South Derbyshire, seemed to go off-script during a launch event for the Government’s new digital strategy on Thursday, saying: “I was just at a conference in Blackpool or Birmingham or somewhere godawful.”

Labour councillor Lynn Williams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Ms Wheeler’s words were “frustrating”, and added: “We’re used to getting (these) sort of ignorant and ill-advised comments.

“It makes me quite cross that, you know, particularly in this instance we held the Tory spring conference back in March of this year, which was incredibly successful, at our state-of-the art conference centre.

“Blackpool’s seen the biggest increase in footfall for the last two years. We’re doing something right, people love Blackpool. Maybe she needs to come and have a look round and enjoy the world-famous illuminations on our beautiful promenade.

“We know we’ve got a lot of social inequalities to deal with and we’re actually meant to be working with the Government to deal with those as part of the levelling up programme so, yeah, it’s just frustrating.

“But we carry on regardless. We’ll continue to invest in our town and our people.”

Ms Wheeler, who is a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, later apologised and said she made an “inappropriate remark that does not reflect my actual view”.

The widely criticised remarks coincided with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s major speech in the town just days after the confidence vote in his premiership, in which he announced plans to help renters on to the property ladder.

Lisa Nandy
Lisa Nandy said the comments were ‘clueless and offensive’ (PA)

Asked whether Ms Wheeler’s apology is “sufficient”, the Blackpool Council leader replied: “I mean, you said it, you thought it.

“I mean, even sort of putting Blackpool and Birmingham as being the topic of the joke. I just… nothing surprises me.

“I think it’s more evidence of what the true thoughts are, really.”

Other opposition politicians have voiced their criticism of Ms Wheeler’s comments, with deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner saying: “It’s frankly embarrassing that she’s still in her position as a minister.”

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: “What an absolute shower. They tell us they’re levelling up the country but this is what they truly think. They can’t even tell the difference between ‘Blackpool or Birmingham or somewhere godawful’. Clueless and offensive.”

When asked for comment, the Cabinet Office pointed to Ms Wheeler’s apology.

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