WHEN it was announced that the North-East was to host one of the 15 hustings for the Conservative Party leadership, it was assumed that it would go to Newcastle.

But it is great that it came to the Tees Valley and that Darlington had the chance to show off its magnificently restored Hippodrome.

It is very positive for politicians to escape the Westminster bubble and find themselves pitched into the provinces, and both men had done at least a little research into the nature of Darlington – they both bounded on stage and hailed it as the birthplace of the railways.

One contender, perhaps surprisingly Boris Johnson, had clearly been prepped about potential local questions and was ready to talk about improved transport connectivity and the aspirations for Teesside to get a freeport.

Jeremy Hunt has previously spoken of a plan to get a Northern Powerhouse minister into the Cabinet, so perhaps he missed an opportunity not to mention that yesterday.

But the picking of Darlington as a venue also suggests that Tees Valley Tories are at their most confident for about 30 years. They have the mayor, they have made strides on all councils, and they have three or four Parliamentary seats within reach.

And they have the Brexit Party breathing down their necks.

Across County Durham, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley, it picked up at least 40 per cent in the European elections – the Tories can count no chickens until their new leader sorts Brexit.