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Johnson launches raid on Labour's home turf.

Byline: Katie Dickinson Reporter katie.dickinson@trinitymirror.com @KATIEJDICKINSON

BORIS Johnson promised a "fantastic future" for the North East if the Tories are voted back in as he visited the region two days before the general election.

The Foreign Secretary delivered a speech at Shildon Civic Hall in County Durham as the Conserva tives attempted to revitalise their election campaign.

His arrival was marked by crowds of protestors, carrying signs in sup port of Labour's Bishop Auckland candidate Helen Goodman and shouting "Tories out".

But the Conservative MP avoided the demonstrators twice by arriving via the back door and leaving through the front door.

The Bishop Auckland seat has been held by Labour since 1935 - but the Conservatives have hopes of cap turing it this time. Ms Goodman held it with a majority of just 3,500 in 2015.

Speaking to The Journal, he said the North East had "a fantastic future" and was "one of the great centres of innovation".

He said: "It is about jobs, growth and understanding there is not a magic money tree."

Mr Johnson was also asked if he thought the North East could cope with a terror attack in the wake of cuts to armed officers between 2010 and 2016. He did not comment on the North East but said that the Tories will invest 30% more into counter terrorism and 'a lot more' into armed police.

Challenged over cuts in police numbers following his speech in Shildon, Mr Johnson said: "Every year I was mayor in London we were able to keep police numbers at or around 32,000 and I think they've been higher in our period in office than virtually every year Labour was in office in the 13 years before then.

"We are investing in counter-ter rorism, we are putting 1,900 more into our counter-terrorist operations as well as putting more armed police officers out on the street."

Mr Johnson also launched a fresh attack on Jeremy Corbyn during his speech - the day after the Labour leader drew giant crowds to hear him speak in Gateshead - calling him "soft and muddle-headed".

Brexit was the key theme of the speech, with Mr Johnson saying negotiations would "founder" if Thursday's General Election resulted in a coalition government led by Jer emy Corbyn, claiming the "herbivo rous" Labour leader would be "eaten for breakfast" by Brussels bureau crats.

He warned: "For 30 years, (Cor byn) has been soft and muddleheaded on terror. He has been soft and muddle-headed on defence. He has taken the side of just about every adversary this country has had in my lifetime, from the IRA to Hamas, from Soviet communism to General Galtieri.

"I don't mean to compare our European friends to any of these people, but it is psychologically impossible to imagine him having the grip or the firmness to get the right Brexit deal for this country."

Mr Johnson said that there were "plenty of people in Brussels and some in this country who have spent night and day since June 23 dream ing, hoping, scheming and plotting that they will be able to reverse that decision".

He asked: "Do we want them to frustrate the will of the people? I don't think we do."

One protester outside the civic hall, Chris Turner, said: "This elec tion is very important in saving the NHS, with the Tories planning more cuts.

"Last year Boris Johnson promised an extra PS350m a week for the NHS if we left the EU - 24 hours later he said this was not the case.

"How can we believe him now?" But Mr Johnson denied this, say ing, "He says: "There's only one way to get any of our money back and that's to make sure we leave."

It is psychologically impossible to imagine (Jeremy Corbyn) having the grip or the firmness to get the right Brexit dealBoris Johnson

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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers a speech to party supporters as he campaigns in Shildon Civic Hall in County Durham yesterday
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2017
Words:670
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