BORIS Johnson braved the bank holiday downpours to surprise diners at a seafront restaurant before taking a walk round Yarm on Monday.

The Prime Minister was back on the campaign trail with Hartlepool by-election candidate Jill Mortimer, just days before the crucial vote.

Mr Johnson posed for selfies and ‘elbow bumped’ with people tucking into their fish and chips at the Surfside fish bar and restaurant on Seaton Carew seafront.
He then took a wander in Yarm with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

The Prime Minister was well received by the public, with people crowding round take photographs with him and he said he felt that the traditionally Labour-voting people of Hartlepool were ready for a change to the Conservatives.

He said: “I am obviously very conscious that Hartlepool is a historic Labour seat, everybody understands that.

"This is the former stamping ground of Lord Mandelson and it has been in Labour hands forever, for 57-years.

"But my view is that it’s time for change and a lot of people have spontaneously said that to me and I do feel that very strongly.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Johnson acknowledged that the North-East has been a traditionally hostile place for the Conservatives but he said the party has changed in the last 20 years to better represent the North. 

He said he didn’t believe that the South should be seen as the powerhouse of the country which is why his party is committed to ‘levelling up’.

He said: "We have got a big idea as a party and as a government and our idea is very simple; that this is an amazing country where talent and genius and potential of all kinds is spread everywhere.

"But opportunity isn't always spread everywhere and that can apply not just from North to South but it can apply within regions.

"There can be big, big disparities in people's life chances just in quite a small distance away from each other, so our agenda is to level up and to spread that opportunity, with infrastructure, with skills, with innovation."

Mr Johnson pointed to local investment in the green energy sector along with the treasury jobs coming to Darlington and the benefits that the Freeport can unlock on Teesside as examples of what the government is bringing to the North-East.

The Prime Minister was well received by the public at the seafront cafe, with Seaton resident Anthony Skordis the first to grab a selfie with the PM.

He said: “It isn’t a job I’d like to do and I think he’s doing it well.

“He’s also very likeable and I think that matters.”

Keith and Margaret Coleman were visiting Seaton Carew from Eaglescliffe and were surprised to have their outdoor meal interrupted by a visit from the Prime Minister.

The Northern Echo:

Margaret said: "He (Keith) wanted to go to Redcar but I said 'let's go to Seaton for a change' and look what happened!"

The couple said they both vote Conservative and belive the government has been doing an 'excellent job' responding to the Covid pandemic and in rolling out the vaccination programme.

Keith said: "I think they are doing a good job.

"I think they have been absolutely excellent with Covid and everything, particularly with the injections."

Mr Johnson's visit comes days before the Hartlepool by-election this Thursday.

The Conservatives have been campaigning hard to snatch the seat from Labour who have held it since it was formed in 1974 and going back decades further when Labour mostly held the similar constituency of The Hartlepools.