Boris Johnson has vowed to repay the trust of former Labour supporters whose votes helped deliver him victory in the General Election.
The Prime Minister made a symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham – which fell to the Tories on Thursday night – to pledge his commitment to spreading opportunity across the country.
“We believe in giving opportunity to everyone,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters and newly-elected MPs from the region packed into the local cricket club.
“We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout our country, but opportunity is unfairly distributed.
“We are going to rectify that as a One Nation Conservative government, as a people’s government, that is what we are going to do.”
Sedgefield was one of a swathe of seats across the North, Midlands and north Wales in Labour’s hitherto impregnable “red wall” to go blue as the Tories stormed to an 80-seat majority in the new House of Commons.
In his speech, Mr Johnson acknowledged how difficult it was for many lifelong Labour supporters to break with the party and cast their votes for the Tories.
“I can imagine people’s pencil’s hovering over the ballot paper and wavering before coming down for us and the Conservatives, and I know that people may have been breaking the voting habits of generations to vote for us,” he said.
“And I want the people of the North East to know that we in the Conservative Party, and I, will repay your trust – and everything that we do, everything that I do as your Prime Minister, will be devoted to repaying that trust.”
In a message to Tory MPs, Mr Johnson also echoed the words of Mr Blair when he became prime minister in 1997, saying: “Remember, we are not the masters, we are the servants now. Our job is to serve the people of this country.”
In an upbeat address, Mr Johnson insisted his Government’s priorities and those of its new supporters are the same.
“It is getting Brexit done but it is also delivering on our National Health Service, our education, safer streets, better hospitals, a better future for our country,” he said.
“We are going to recover our national self-confidence, our mojo, our self-belief. It is going to be a wonderful, wonderful time for our country. Our country will stand tall in the world.”
In contrast, the recriminations within Labour are continuing following the party’s worst performance in a general election since 1935.
Some MPs and defeated candidates turned on Jeremy Corbyn, saying the Labour leader’s left-wing politics had cost them votes.
Mr Corbyn announced on Friday that he would be standing down early next year after a “process of reflection” on what went wrong.
However his long-standing ally and shadow chancellor John McDonnell dismissed claims the party had backed the “wrong” leader.
He said: “I didn’t back the wrong person because Jeremy was the right leader. We could have won in 2017. Things moved on. Brexit dominated everything.”
He said Mr Corbyn is “one of the most principled, honest, sincere, committed, anti-racist politicians”, but he had been “demonised by a smear campaign against him”.
Mr McDonnell, who confirmed he will also be standing down when Mr Corbyn goes, added: “I think we have to have a wider debate here about the role of social media and the media overall, and sometimes the nature of our politics.
“I don’t want to live in a society where those sorts of lies and smears and character-assassination dominate our politics. Let’s have an honest debate about the issues.
“It isn’t about individuals, it is about policies and analysis.”