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Ben Houchen warns Boris Johnson must ‘focus’ and deliver on promises of jobs for Teesside

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Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen has called on the Prime Minister to ‘focus’ and deliver on promises of investment, jobs, and progress for areas such as Teesside.

Mr Houchen said Mr Johnson must make it his New Year’s resolution to redouble and refocus the Government’s work to ‘level up’ the UK.

He praised Mr Johnson’s resistance but issued a warning to the PM to remember what will decide people’s votes at the next election or risk losing support in Red Wall areas.

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The comments followed a troubled period for the PM which has seen the Tories slip in the opinion polls against Labour.

Mr Johnson has faced criticism over allegations of parties at Downing Street during lockdown, a rebellion by a his own MPs, including two Teesside MPs, over the introduction of covid restrictions and a by-election defeat in Tory heartland North Shropshire.

A cost of living crisis fuelled by rising energy costs and a hike in National Insurance this year is also putting the Government under pressure.

Mr Houchen said it was important that Mr Johnson delivered for voters on Teesside who backed the PM in 2019’s General Election.

He said: “The Westminster political bubble isn’t known for its long attention span, especially when it comes to the needs of the North. London’s entrenched political class, who have never looked beyond Notting Hill and Islington let alone the M25, are trying to distract the Prime Minister from the cause of Levelling Up.

“Boris still has highly tuned political antenna – it’s what’s made him the great survivor in the brutal world of Westminster politics – but he needs to remember what will decide people’s votes when election day next comes.

“They’ll see the Government has had some real successes, especially in its truly world-leading vaccination and booster programmes.

“But they’ll be looking forward – and looking for proof that they were right to back him and this government to deliver a better life for them and their families.”

In the letter, Mr Houchen called on Johnson to deliver on his promises of 2019 when the Tories secured ‘Red Wall’ seats such as Redcar, and Sedgefield as well as retaining key Teesside marginals such as Stockton South and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.

He said: “In 2019, Boris promised investment, jobs, and progress in areas left behind for decades by governments of all colours. That’s what Boris still can and should deliver.

“As Tees Valley Mayor, I’m working day and night to deliver on local priorities. From investment at Middlesbrough Station, now welcoming its first regular LNER service to London for many years, to the Teesworks Skills Academy which is ensuring that local workers are equipped to make the most of freeport investments, to my backing of essential regional infrastructure like Teesside International Airport, people can see that my focus is on jobs, investment, and securing the best possible future for Teessiders.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to focus, remember what got him elected two years ago and what the British people need to see to return him as Prime Minister at the next election.

“Boris has got booster jabs in British arms – now he needs to make sure Britain gets the Brexit boost it needs: jobs, investment, growth, levelling up, and a better future for every part of our country.”

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https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/ben-houchen-calls-boris-johnson-22693372