The Tories’ so-called ‘Minister for the Northern Powerhouse’ has been forced to defend himself after Scrapbook and others accused him of being ineffectual — and effectively going into hiding after the Tories ditched election promises on rail improvements in the North.

It is doubtful that his higher-ups will thank him for, errrrm, comparing his party’s own manifesto to ‘writing blank cheques’:

“Constructive criticism would be one thing but unless [Yorkshire MP Tom Blenkinsop] wants the government to write blank cheques it is right that programmes are always reviewed.

Treasury questions earlier this month saw a major push of the Northern Powerhouse narrative — wasting valuable parliamentary questions with no less than three Tory MPs asking exactly the same thing:

“What recent steps [the chancellor] has taken to rebalance the economy and create a northern powerhouse?”

But to to jeers from the Conservative benches, opposition members noted that — despite the co-ordinated push on the issue — the minister responsible was not in the chamber.

It turns out that the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse was out to lunch … literally.

Wharton was spotted just minutes later tucking into a salad on the river front House of Commons terrace.

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