Rishi Sunak says he is fighting for North East votes despite poll woes

-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that “the poll that matters is the one on July 4” after a string of polls pointed to his party losing heavily in the North East in next week’s General Election.

Mr Sunak was speaking on a campaign stop at a school on Teesside. The event came as various polls have the Conservatives heading for a heavy defeat nationally, with even some of its safest seats in the North East, as well as more marginal ‘Red Wall’ constituencies won in 2019, at risk.

Mr Sunak is also facing pressure from the Reform Party, with its leader Nigel Farage using a rally in Sunderland 24 hours earlier to suggest that his party has become the main opposition to Labour in the North East. Reform also paraded long-time Tory donor and former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall, who has switched support to Mr Farage's party.

But asked about possible electoral disaster in the region, Mr Sunak said: “The poll that matters is the one on July 4 and we’ll fight very hard for every vote until that day.

“Every time I’ve been out in local communities here, I speak to people who know what a terrific job their local MPs have done for them. Whether it’s Matt, whether it’s Jacob, whether it’s Peter, whether it’s Jill: we’ve got MPs here who have worked their socks off for their local communities. Whatever anyone might think about national politics, you cannot doubt the commitment of these MPs to their communities. And they have delivered for them.”

Mr Sunak was also asked about high levels of child poverty in the North East, and said “I don’t want to see any child growing up in poverty”. But he swerved the detail of a question on levelling up after figures suggested more money had been spent in London than in the North East.

He said: “After decades of Labour neglect, you’ve seen a Conservative team - the mayor Ben Houchen working with me when I was Chancellor and now as Prime Minister; fantastic MPs like Matt Vickers, Jacob Young, Peter Gibson and Jill Mortimer - working incredibly hard for their local communities and delivering for them.

“Look at Hartlepool, Redcar, Eaglescliffe, Yarm, Thornaby, Darlington: all of those places getting tens and tens of millions of pounds of investment into their town centres and their high streets. We’ve got a brand new Brexit freeport in the Tees Valley which is bringing millions of pounds of investment and creating thousands of high quality jobs. We’re upgrading Darlington station and we’re also making sure that we’ve got great Government jobs here.”

Earlier on the campaign trail, Mr Sunak said a racial slur against him by a Reform UK canvasser “hurts and it makes me angry” and that party leader Nigel Farage “has some questions to answer”.