A council leader has said in the wake of a string of resignations that it might be "time to move on" for the Conservative Party.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, who took over as leader of Darlington Borough Council in May, said the Tories' important work in the North-east was being lost amid Westminster controversies.

He said he still supported Boris Johnson, and said he would not comment on whether the Prime Minister should "stay or go" following a series of resignations in the last 24 hours, most notably chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid.

But he suggested people were looking for a "new direction" for the party.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

Cllr Dulston said: "It's not great because I think the Conservatives are absolutely delivering on the big stuff, the priorities that are important to the people.

"And sadly, I think we're seeing at Westminster time and time again issues that unfortunately have been handled really badly.

"I think we're at that point now where more and more people are now looking for the Conservative Party to be taken in a new direction.

"I support Boris. I think in terms of the levelling up agenda he's been absolutely instrumental in some of the big things that are happening in Darlington, whether that's the relocation of the government campus, the introduction of the Towns Fund, the introduction of the Levelling Up Fund.

"All of these types of things, he's absolutely been central and led on.

Read more: LIVE UPDATES - More Tory ministers resign after Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid quit

"It's disappointing but I think we're now at the point where all of that stuff, all of those great policies that have absolutely made a difference to people's lives, is getting lost and there's too much distraction.

"If that's the case sadly it's time to move on.

"I think ultimately more and more people are coming out and Boris is losing the support of the parliamentary party.

"It's not for me to comment on whether he should stay or go. All I would say is all of the great stuff the government is doing is getting lost amidst all of the Westminster noise about how he's handled certain situations."

Read more: Will Quince quits after resignation of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid

Asked how he thought the situation would develop, he said: "I think sadly we're going to see more and more resignations, and that's sad.

"We don't really know how it's going to pan out. I think the next few days will be interesting, but my priority is Darlington, is to make sure that the new ministers who are absolutely committed to the Darlington economic campus continue to show that energy.

"I'll be working with Peter Gibson to make sure that we get Nadhim Zahawi the new chancellor to the economic campus and show him around.

"I'll be looking for reassurances from him to come down and keep pushing the fantastic work we're doing to level up."

Asked whether the new economic campus would be affected by the departure of Rishi Sunak, he added: "I think ultimately the Darlington economic campus is made up of seven different government departments, it's not just one.

"Rishi was the driving force and we were lucky to have a northern MP that was absolutely central to pulling all of that together.

The Northern Echo: Former chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Former chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

"I still have confidence that the chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, our neighbour in Middlesbrough, will continue to push the economic campus forward.

"We still have a local voice representing us along with our MPs Paul Howell and Peter Gibson continuing to champion Darlington's opportunity with the Darlington economic campus.

"We have absolutely had the commitment from the government. We've got feet on the ground here currently.

"In the coming weeks we'll be moving to the new location Feethams House, that's being finalised. It's been transformed and kitted out. We're starting to see people making the transition into that building.

"It's not an idea, it's absolutely a reality. We're already starting to see those people working here. People have already made the relocation to Darlington."


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