RISHI SUNAK has come out on top of our poll to find who our readers would like to be the next Prime Minister, with 61 per cent support.

This is unsurprising because the Richmond MP does know his way around our corner of the world and the levelling up policies he is most associated with, transplanting Treasury jobs and creating a freeport on Teesside, do have the potential to make a difference to our area.

Liz Truss' role as Foreign Secretary has not given her the same profile on the ground in the north, and her talk of unfunded tax cuts must trouble areas like ours as tax cuts inevitably mean public spending cuts which inevitably hit the poorer areas hardest.

Personal wealth is becoming a big issue in the contest, with Nadine Dorries yesterday drawing comparison between Ms Truss' £4.50 earrings and Mr Sunak's £3,500 suit and £450 Prada shoes that she said he wore on "Teeside". So not only does she insult the place by mis-spelling its name, but she seems to infer that Mr Sunak's expensive clothing meant he was out of place on Teesside – she clearly doesn't understand the great lengths, and expense, that some proud Teessiders themselves go to in order to look as good as possible.

It is a very unConservative trait to "wealth shame" somebody. The Tories are supposed to be the party of aspiration, of getting on, so for Ms Dorries to suggest that Mr Sunak's personal success is to be held against him is rather rich.

However, her fundamental point does merit some discussion: can someone as stratospherically wealthy as Mr Sunak really understand the desperation of 50 per cent of parents in Middlesbrough whose children are growing up in relative poverty and who will be making heating or eating decisions this winter?

The tragedy, of course, is that we've just fallen into the trap that is tarnishing this leadership contest: here we are discussing Mr Sunak's shoes while the real issues like child poverty – the issues that should be at the heart of the levelling up agenda – are relegated to a sideshow.