A Conservative MP has been criticised for saying people in the south of England are more likely to enjoy ballet and opera, while northerners prefer football.
Jake Berry, a former northern powerhouse minister, made the comparison as he warned “northern culture” was being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For many people who live in London and the south of England, things like the opera house and ballet will be at the heart of their culture,” he told a Westminster Hall debate.
“But for many of us in the North it is our local football club – our Glyndebourne or Royal Ballet or Royal Opera House or Royal Shakespeare Company will be Blackburn Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Carlisle or Sunderland.”
Mr Berry, who represents Rossendale and Darwen and leads the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, added that action is needed from Westminster to protect clubs that are the “cornerstone” of their communities.
Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch did not address the MP’s plea in her reply, acknowledging the North of England has been a “hotbed” of energy, ideas and creativity for centuries.
Northern Ballet, which is based in Leeds, voiced disappointment at the MP’s comments and accused him of perpetuating “tropes that culture in the North is of less value than that in London”.
It added on Twitter: “In the same way that sporting clubs are of great importance to many people throughout the country, including in the South, culture is equally important to a huge percentage of people in the North.
“Our home city of Leeds is the only city outside of London to have its own resident ballet, opera and theatre companies.
“Culture being produced in the North is of world-class quality, vibrant and innovative, and contributes greatly to both society and the economy.
“We hope that one day this will be recognised by all.”