The minister for the so-called "northern powerhouse" has claimed "Teesside is doing well" after he was labelled a "clown" by a football club owner.
Steve Gibson, chairman and owner of Middlesbrough Football Club, condemned the lack of action from the Government over the closure of the Redcar steelworks and said he and the town would "look to bury him".
The millionaire businessman told the Times: "We have a local MP, James Wharton, who is supposed to be responsible for the northern powerhouse - he's come across as an absolute clown. A joke.
"And he will become accountable at the next election."
But Mr Wharton, MP for Stockton South, responded by saying he was optimistic for the future of Teesside.
"I don't want to get into a slagging match with anyone about it. Teesside is doing well but there's no doubting this was a difficult blow to our local economy," he said.
"But looking forward I continue to be optimistic for the future and will be working hard to deliver on the opportunities I know Teesside is well placed to benefit from.
"He hasn't asked to see me, he hasn't spoken to me, if he wants to come and see me he'd be very welcome to."
Mr Wharton also dismissed Mr Gibson's accusation that the UK had "simply surrendered to the Chinese" and "pulled up the white flag".
He said: "Steel is a global market and China is a big player but not the only player in that market. We have to look to trade and work with China if we are to look to grow our economy so it's absolutely right the Government looks to do that."
Mr Wharton was appointed as "northern powerhouse" minister in May as part of the Government's attempt to boost the economy of the North of England at the Department for Communities and Local Government.