BORIS JOHNSON made a highly entertaining speech to the Conservative Party conference. There were some great gags – even some brave ones, joking about the number of children he and Jacob Rees Mogg had between them.

His optimism is infectious. His talking up the country made him appeal to even former Labour voters at the last election. Right now, a boost of confidence is what the country needs, as is a go-for-it spirit.

But at some point, reality must intrude into Mr Johnson’s gag-filled bubble.

The petrol crisis might have passed – particularly here in the rational North East – but the cost of living crisis is going to get worse over the winter as fuel prices soar and food prices go up to cover the increasing wages of the people who produce and deliver it.

Which makes the Government’s insistence on withdrawing the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift seem cruel as we are not out of the crises caused by the pandemic yet.

In the Darlington constituency, there are 9,991 UC claimants; in Bishop Auckland there are 8,737. Withdrawing the uplift will remove £9.5m from the Darlington economy in a year and £8.3m from Bishop Auckland. In Middlesbrough, one of the poorest areas, there are 15,568 claimants, meaning £14.9m will disappear.

So the poorest people suffer most and the poorest areas feel the knock-on effect. Is this levelling up?

For those who will seriously struggle to make ends meet – and 40 per cent of them are in work – this cut is no laughing matter.