Rishi Sunak says Conservatives "believe deeply in North East" despite poll suggesting election wipe-out

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the Conservatives “believe deeply in the North East” as he made visits to some of the areas it is trying to hold onto in next month’s General Election.

Mr Sunak visited Blyth, in Northumberland, following a stop-off at Redcar, on Teesside, earlier in the day, to meet candidates and campaigners attempting to hold onto marginal seats in the fabled ‘Red Wall’.

After taking a short walk on the seafront at Blyth where he posed for pictures with local children, Mr Sunak outlined the millions of pounds of investment that have gone into Blyth under the Conservatives. He also met with outgoing Blyth Valley MP Ian Levy and his wife Maureen, both of whom are standing for election in July in new, re-drawn seats.

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The Tories had earlier announced a pledge to give 30 more towns £20m for regeneration projects, though the only town selected in the North East is Thornaby, on Teesside, and more than half are in seats the party is defending. Labour described it as a “reckless, unfunded” commitment.

Mr Sunak’s visit also came as a new opinion predicted a huge majority for Labour with the Conservatives reduced to just 66 seats around the country and many Cabinet Ministers losing their seats. That poll envisages the Tories losing every single one of their seats in the North East.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes a stop off in Blyth Northumberland during his General Election campaign
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes a stop off in Blyth Northumberland during his General Election campaign -Credit:ChronicleLive

But Mr Sunak said: “We’ve worked really hard to gain people’s trust - you can see that we’re delivering. If you look at what we’re doing right here in Blyth: it’s a place that’s come to us relatively recently and we believe in investing in places like this which have been forgotten for decades under the Labour Party. We’ve got a record, I think, where people can say: ‘They have done what they said.’

“Here in Blyth we’ve got High Streets funding, towns funding, the Ashington and Blyth line was the first of those schemes to get done, the relief road, educational establishments and we’ve got a new long term plan for Blyth with another £20m for local people to invest in their priorities.

“So as Ian (Levy) often says to his colleagues, you’d be hard pressed to find a place that has got more investment than Blyth and that’s an example of what we’re doing across the North East. I’ve come from Teesside this morning where I was in Redcar with our other MPs and again we have invested in these communities and we will keep doing that if we’re re-elected because we believe deeply in the North East and we want to spread opportunity far and wide.”

Figures from the End Child Poverty Coalition show that more than a third (35.2%) of children in Blyth Valley and a similar proportion around the North East (35%) are growing up in poverty. Campaigners in the North East have called on both parties to put a drive to reduce child poverty at the heart of the next Government, but Mr Sunak insisted he was “proud” of the Government’s record on the issue.

He said: “I don’t want to see any child grow up in poverty, that’s awful thing for them to have to do. The official figures show that poverty has gone down across the country by about 100,000 since 2010 so I’m actually proud of our record in reducing the number of children in poverty, though there’s always more to do.

“The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to make sure that their mums and dads have good jobs. That’s what all the evidence says - a child growing up in a workless household is five or six times more likely to be growing up in poverty than one where their parents are in work.

“That’s why our management of the economy is so important. We have near record low levels of unemployment, wages have been rising faster than prices for almost a year and our plan is working. All the levelling up investments that I talked about, and more generally what we’re doing to manage the economy, will mean that there are good, well paid jobs for people. And in the meantime we’re also making sure we help the most vulnerable, and my track record as Chancellor and Prime Minister shows that.”