A "BARMY boffin" who called for people from "failed" Liverpool to be moved to the south has been picked to advise a Cabinet minister, triggering a furious row.
David Cameron branded Tim Leunig "barmy" when – four years ago – he penned a report urging a future Tory government to give up on efforts to "buck the market" by reviving Liverpool and other northern cities.
The embarrassed future prime minister said, of the London School of Economics academic: "I gather he’s off to Australia. The sooner he gets on the ship the better."
But, far from being transported, Dr Leunig has now been appointed as a policy adviser to Michael Gove, the Conservative Education Secretary.
The move was immediately criticised by Stephen Twigg, the West Derby MP and Labour’s education spokesman, who said: "This appointment will scare people in Liverpool. We know this man’s opinions and the track record of this government since May 2010. Now it’s going to have an adviser that doesn’t think Liverpool, or other Northern cities, have a future."
Maria Eagle, the Garston and Halewood MP, added: "The first thing Michael Gove did when he came to office was to cancel £350m of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) money.
"Now we can see what he really thinks about Liverpool, if he is taking advice from someone who thinks we should all leave."
And Steve Rotheram, the Walton MP, said: "This is a barmy appointment."
The academic hit the headlines when he co-authored the report – entitled "Cities Unlimited" – for Policy Exchange, the Conservatives’ favourite think-tank.
It called for all the three million new homes planned by the government, in 2008, to be built in just three southern cities – London, Oxford and Cambridge.
And it concluded: "Many of Britain’s towns and cities have failed – and been failed by policy makers for too long.
"It is better to tell uncomfortable truths than to continue to claim that if we carry on as we are then things will turn out well. Just as we can’t buck the market, so we can’t buck economic geography either.
"Coastal cities, whether large like Liverpool and Hull, or small like Scunthorpe and Blackpool, are most vulnerable. They have lost their raison d’etre [as ports] and it is hard to imagine them prospering at their current sizes."
As recently as last July, Dr Leunig wrote another article arguing for mass migration, concluding: "Politicians must stop pretending the regeneration works, when it doesn’t."
The department for education declined to respond to the criticism, but confirmed Dr Leunig would be advising all ministers in the department, including Mr Gove.
Describing himself as a Liberal Democrat – not a Conservative – the academic is expected to work closely with David Laws, the recently-appointed Lib Dem schools minister.