David Cameron has abandoned the North, says Labour vice chairman

Michael Dugher's attack comes as his party tries to steal the Tories' 'One Nation' mantle

Labour has accused David Cameron of being a "divide-and-rule Prime Minister" who has failed the North, as a new report promotes the benefits to the regions of High Speed 2.

Michael Dugher, Labour's vice chairman, told the party's northern regional conference last night that the "so-called national recovery is weak and imbalanced". Unemployment in the North-east, at 10 per cent, is double that of the South-east, according to Office for National Statistics data.

The attack comes as Labour tries to steal the Tories' "One Nation" mantle, with Mr Dugher arguing that northerners have been "left behind".

He homed in on comments by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who has attacked the "preposterous" number of Old Etonians in the Cabinet. Mr Dugher said: "Mr Cameron cannot be in touch with the country and lead a One Nation government if he is at the centre of an Eton cabal. The problem with Cameron's crowd is not just that they all went to Eton – it's that they've never been anywhere else."

However, a report tomorrow into one of Mr Cameron's favoured projects to promote long-term economic growth, the much-criticised £50bn HS2, is expected to argue that the railway will be a boon to northern cities.

HS2 was planned in two phases, linking London to Birmingham, and then from the midlands to Leeds and Manchester to form a Y-shaped route. However, new executive chairman Sir David Higgins will suggest that HS2 costs could be cut by bringing forward the start of phase two, which will provide faster links between northern cities.

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