NORMALLY, we’d welcome Boris Johnson visiting the North East. He owes so much to this area for assisting in his election, and he needs to see the world outside London which he is supposed to be “levelling up”.

But a soft visit to Hexham hospital was not the right place for the Prime Minister to be when the House of Commons was debating the fall-out of his own decision to try and save the skin of a Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, who repeatedly lobbied for two companies which had paid him £112,000-a-year.

The Government admitted at the start of the debate that it had made a “mistake”. That mistake has damaged the reputation of politics and of politicians, and of our local Conservative MPs who, with the exception of Thirsk’s Kevin Hollinrake and Hartlepool’s Jill Mortimer, voted with the Government only to be embarrassed by the screeching U-turn the following morning.

Instead of joking with Hexham nurses about an endoscopy, Mr Johnson should have been examining the inner workings of Parliament, in particular of his MPs who find the time to have second jobs when they should be representing their constituents.

We believe that our MPs, of all political persuasions, are genuinely motivated, but the behaviour of the Government in trying to move the goalposts so blatantly makes that argument so much harder to make in the face of those who say “all politicians are in it for themselves”.

Clowning around when such serious matters are at stake has not helped Mr Johnson’s credibility.