Conservative politicians have tried to distance themselves from a controversial report which claims Bradford and some other northern cities are beyond revival.

The report was produced by the Policy Exchange think tank, sometimes described as Tory leader David Cameron’s favourite and widely believed to have been behind many of the Tories’ new policies. Its publication sparked outrage, as reported in today’s Telegraph & Argus.

The report’s authors even argued that people in Bradford, Liverpool and Sunderland should move to the South to escape poverty.

But, when pressed by the T&A, Dr Timothy Leunig admitted that neither he nor his co-authors had carried out research in Bradford or any of the other cities they condemned before the report was published yesterday.

Guest speakers to the Policy Exchange in recent times have included Mr Cameron and Sha-dow Foreign Secretary William Hague, chairman of the Tories’ Bradford-based Northern Board.

On a visit to Carlisle yesterday Mr Cameron said: “This report has nothing to do with the Cons-ervative Party. This is an independent think tank, it has charitable status. I think this report is complete rubbish. It is barmy.”

The T&A requested comments from Mr Hague but he was unavailable. Instead the party put up Chris Grayling, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary who is MP for Epsom and Ewell.

Distancing himself from the report, Mr Grayling said: “When you visit Bradford, you have a sense of a city reinventing itself for the coming century.

“Whether it’s the big new shopping development, or the renewal of Eastbrook Hall, or the city’s status as one of the most attractive small cities for inward investment in Europe, this is a place where things are happening.”

“That is why this week’s report from the Policy Exchange think tank – suggesting that Bradford and many other northern towns and cities have no future – was so misplaced. The job of political think tanks is to put forward challenging ideas. But politicians should only listen when they are talking sense – and in this case, it most definitely wasn’t.”

Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies said: “It is complete tosh and completely barmy. It is like saying ten years ago everyone in China should move the US. It is like people saying at the turn of the 20th century people in the South should move to Bradford.

“Anywhere can be regenerated with the right vision and execution. There is no reason why Bradford cannot be one of the most successful cities in the country.”

Bradford North Labour MP Terry Rooney said: “I do not think it (the Policy Exchange) is as much a think tank as a fish tank. Perhaps they need to go back to school as they are sadly wrong.”

Bradford West Labour MP Marsha Singh said: “It is the biggest piece of nonsense I have heard. To get northern people to move south to live they would have to put us in ball and chains and frog march us down.

“This just shows what the Tories think of the North. They think it is beyond regeneration. Yes we have had difficulties, but we are far from being on our knees.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government also dismissed the report’s conclusions.

“It’s alarming that this ‘think tank’ is labelling our great cities as ‘beyond revival’ and arguing that we should target less effort on them, when those areas that have received regeneration funding have shown the greatest improvements,” said a spokes-man.

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd David James, expressed his astonishment at the poor research in the Policy Exchange Report.

“As we in Bradford diversify our economic base and draw on the mix of skills and cultures, we will build the new Bradford,” he said.

“I invite the members of the Policy Exchange Group to come to Bradford and see these green shoots of life. As churches, our commitment to the city has been set out in the 2006 report, Faithful Cities. As Christians we believe that God has a future for our cities and I am glad to say that in the midst of our real difficulties, I can see the future beginning to take shape.

“Unlike some, I believe that our glass is half full.”