The leader of Blackpool Council has urged a Conservative minister who called the town “godawful” to “come and have a look round” herself.
Lynn Williams, a Labour councillor, said Heather Wheeler’s words at an event in London were frustrating but added: “We’re used to getting (these) sort of ignorant and ill-advised comments.”
Ms Wheeler later apologised for the remarks, which were also aimed at Birmingham, and said they did not reflect her “actual view”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Williams said: “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.”
Asked if Ms Wheeler’s apology – in which she said her remark did not reflect her “actual view” – was sufficient, Cllr Williams said: “I mean, you said it, you thought it.”
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “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.”
Heather Wheeler, who is a junior Cabinet Office minister, was speaking at an event in London to launch the Tory’s new digital strategy.
“I was at a conference at, I dunno, Blackpool or Birmingham, somewhere godawful,” she told the audience, before making her official speech.
Shadow Levelling Up secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This comment reveals the Conservatives’ true colours.
“It’s no wonder the Tories are failing so miserably to level up our great towns and cities if this is what they truly think.”
Ms Wheeler later Tweeted: “Whilst speaking at a conference on Thursday, I made an inappropriate remark that does not reflect my actual view.
“I apologise for any offence caused.”
Some Twitter users weren’t convinced however. One posted: “I’m confused if it wasn’t your actual view why say it. As far as I am aware your comment wasn’t referenced as someone else saying it whereby you were were commenting on someone else’s opinion.”
Her comments were made hours after Boris Johnson gave an important housing policy speech in Birmingham.
Mr Johnson said: “Blackpool is the second biggest destination for tourists outside London in the UK,” said Johnson on Thursday during his visit.
“It’s massive, we think it’s got great potential.”