IT’S not every day the Prime Minister calls into your offices for a cup of tea and a chat, and we can only apologise for the rush-hour disruption his motorcade must have caused as he travelled to and from Echo Towers on Darlington’s Priestgate at tea time on Wednesday.

Clearly tired from a day on the campaign trail, under questioning from Chris Lloyd, Boris Johnson spoke about the NHS, the economy and inevitably, his pledge to “get Brexit done”.

We also tackled him on how a Conservative government would support the local press. It’s no secret that local and regional media are facing significant challenges from changing news consumption habits, and evolving advertising markets. As we look to build sustainable models for the future, we’re asking for help to weather this storm.

This week the News Media Association issued a direct challenge to the Conservative and Labour party leaders to answer five questions about how they would help the local media sector if they were elected.

The questions include a commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Cairncross report into the future of local media within six months of being elected, investing more of the Government’s own advertising spend into local media, carrying out a media freedom audit on all proposed primary and secondary legislation, and rigorous enforcement of the BBC regulatory regime to ensure its services are not causing harm to independent commercial media companies.

The final question asks if the Government would support the UK’s system of voluntary press self-regulation and commit to the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which, if enacted, would force publishers to submit to statutory press regulation or face paying crippling legal costs for both sides in libel and privacy cases, even if they win.

Time was short during Mr Johnson’s visit, so we were not able to push him on each of these questions. But before he and his entourage disappeared into the night, with the sound of boos and cheers from a gathered crowd outside Wetherspoons ringing in their ears, we did ask him for his support.

Somewhat depressingly, he told us that none of his team ever picks up a hard copy of a newspaper, but he did pledge his backing for the industry, albeit in very general terms.

Becoming the most animated he was at any time during his visit, thumping the desk in the editor’s office, he said “you will have our support,” adding that local media was vital in reporting councils, and devolved authorities in order to prevent corruption.

He concluded: “You need local newspapers if you are to have justice because if you don’t have local newspapers doing court reports then justice is not done as it is not seen to be done, so you’ve got to keep going.”

As a former journalist, he clearly understands the industry, and speaking to our advertising staff on the way out, chatted about the challenges of the shifting digital marketplace.

Broad-brush backing while currying favour during a General Election campaign is one thing though. Following it up by taking these specific steps in quite another.