Michael Gove has appeared to suggest he thinks Sunderland is in Teesside in an interview blunder.

The Levelling Up Secretary was speaking to the Northern Agenda newsletter when he said Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen was the region’s best champion since Sunderland AFC reached the FA Cup final in 1973.

But Sunderland is not in Teesside, where Middlesbrough FC is the largest club and only last week celebrated 20 years since an historic Carling Cup win.

Mr Gove told the newsletter: “Not since Sunderland were in the FA Cup Final in 1973 have Teesside had a better champion (than Ben Houchen.)

“I'm very, very confident that [voters] will look at Ben's record in the round and think that he's been a huge success. I don't think anyone has done more for Teesside in living memory.”

A spokesperson for the senior Tory said he meant to refer to Houchen as the best champion for the North East, and not just Teesside, when they were asked to clarify the comments.

It comes on the day Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to reveal his spring Budget.

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Lord Houchen is only mayor for the Tees Valley. Elections for a new North East mayor whose jurisdiction will include Sunderland are to be held on May 2, the same day as Houchen will be up for re-election on Teesside.

Michael Gove is the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, tasked with delivering on the Tories’ key promise of levelling up which won them swathes of new voters in the North East in 2019.