A TORY MP has defended the Conservative Party's deputy chair after he made a controversial comment about Bradford - which was said to be intended as a "joke".

During a fringe event at the party's conference in Manchester yesterday, Lee Anderson - who represents the Ashfield constituency in Nottinghamshire as an MP - was questioned about the scrapping of the HS2 high-speed rail line between Birmingham and Manchester and how this would affect services in places like Bradford.

Mr Anderson said: "Would you want to get there quicker?"

The comment attracted intense criticism from a number of Bradford residents and opposition politicians, who said it was "appalling", "pathetic" and "disgraceful". 

But Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said Mr Anderson's comment was a "light-hearted joke" and it was "not serious or intended to be taken at face value".

He told the Telegraph & Argus: "I have spoken to Lee.

"It was a joke - some of the po-faced Labour councillors might want to look up the word.

"As a proud Yorkshireman I often make disparaging remarks about Lancashire.

"They are not serious or intended to be taken at face value.

"I can only presume that desperate Labour councillors are seizing on this to take attention away from their chronic mismanagement of the district - it won't work.

"I am pretty sure that most of my constituents and people across the district have a sense of humour and understand a joke when they hear one, and I am pretty sure we can take a joke at our own expense.

"If you are confident in yourself then you can take a joke at your expense.

"I went to many a Ken Dodd show in Bradford where he would poke fun at Bradford and people laughed - they didn’t take it literally.

"What is the matter with people nowadays?"

He added: "People might also realise that HS2 was never coming to Bradford anyway, so Lee's remark was never meant seriously.

"I sometimes despair at how pathetic political discourse has come when people try to take offence at something clearly intended as a light-hearted joke." 

The Telegraph & Argus has contacted Mr Anderson about his comments - but has not yet received a response. 

At the party's conference today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to use his keynote speech to axe the HS2 leg from Birmingham. 

Earlier this year, it emerged a decision to scrap a new rail station in Bradford - as part of the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail - would be revisited by the Government.