BORIS JOHNSON yesterday promised to unleash the potential of the North-East on a flying visit to one of the key marginal seats of the Tees Valley.

Grabbing hold of a copy of The Northern Echo which yesterday launched a manifesto for the north, Mr Johnson said: “I totally support this agenda.

“To unleash the potential of the north, we are going to do three things: education, infrastructure and high technology.”

The Echo’s manifesto was common initiative from newspapers across the north, from Liverpool to Hull, demanding that politicians should not neglect the region or fob it off with blandishments.

Speaking at the Tetley tea factory at Eaglescliffe, Mr Johnson promised: “We are very, very serious about the infrastructure commitments we are making. We are beginning with a huge investment in the Manchester to Leeds section of the Northern Powerhouse railway and we are going to protract that line all the way up, Teesside, Newcastle.

“Just imagine the potential that could be unleashed by that transport infrastructure investment alone, but we are going to go further in bringing the country together.

“On education, it is vital that we level up funding for schools across the whole of the country, and we are putting in £14bn this year which is raising per pupil funding for every secondary kid to £5,000 just in this area.

“There’s a further thing that’s important and that’s technology. We want to have gigabyte broadband for every home in this country and we are bringing forward the timetable for that by eight years plus we want to have proper 5G telephony because everyone deserves to have connectivity, and that will be transformative.”

The Tetley tea factory is in the Stockton South constituency which Labour stole from the Conservatives at the last election with a majority of 888 votes. It is one of four marginals in the area that it seems the Tories have to win if they are to form a stable government: Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are the others.

The importance of the north in the election is shown by Mr Johnson spending his first day campaigning in the Midlands before flying – albeit briefly – into Teesside airport on day two. It seems certain that he will return before polling day on December 12.

Labour also weighed in yesterday with a huge programme to benefit the region. When Mr Johnson was asked if he could match Labour’s plans to relocate Government departments to the north, he replied: “I’m a big supporter of devolving power and indeed government around the country, and we will certainly continue that process.”

Mr Johnson sounded lukewarm about HS2, the high speed rail planned from London to Leeds, saying a review was under way. “It is a huge amount of money,” he said. “We’re looking to see if you could profile it more in the north first.

“I have delivered a lot of infrastructure projects in my time and I am very wary as PM of a great country of cutting a big infrastructure project – you have to think long and hard before you do that.”

With the Brexit Party also piling into the region, the election could be decided by how “Labour leavers” cast their votes. "I'm amazed at how many Tetleys members of staff have said to me get Brexit done. We are the party that with just nine more seats we have a working majority in Parliament and my pledge to the people of this area is if we get that, we will put my deal straight to Parliament in December, we will be out in January and then we can get on with everything else."

He denied that his deal would reduce Britain's income or cost jobs, and he rode roughshod over suggestions he wouldn't complete the long term trade within a year.

"I think in the short, medium and long term it is the right deal for this country," he said. "Get it done and we will unleash a tidal wave of investment into the UK.

"The delay is absolutely corrosive to confidence in this country and I am afraid that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party are in favour of not just another renegotiation with another extension but another blooming referendum, with all the potential for toxic, tedium and torpor that that involves.

"We need to get on and get Brexit done and unleash the potential of this country."