Boris Johnson has promised to repay the trust of traditional Labour voters in the north-east of England who backed the Conservatives for the first time at Thursday’s general election, declaring they had “changed the political landscape”.
On a highly symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s former constituency of Sedgefield in County Durham on Saturday, Mr Johnson said: “I can imagine people’s pencils 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.
“I want the people of the north-east to know that we in the Conservative party, and I, will repay your trust. Everything I do as your prime minister will be devoted to repaying that trust.”
Mr Johnson said: “Remember, we are not the masters. We are the servants now. And our job is to serve the people of this country and to deliver on our priorities.”
Mr Johnson’s visit to Sedgefield follows a general election victory which saw the Conservatives blast a gaping hole in Labour’s “red wall” of once-safe seats in northern England, helping him to a Commons majority of 80.
Sedgefield, so long associated with Mr Blair, the former Labour leader, returned a Conservative MP on Thursday for the first time in 84 years.
Labour, meanwhile, lost a host of other red wall seats to the Tories, including Bassetlaw, Blyth Valley, Don Valley, Bishop Auckland, Workington, Leigh, Scunthorpe and Great Grimsby.
The Conservatives’ victory in these seats is being hailed by political analysts as a monumental political achievement. It is also raising questions over how Mr Johnson will deliver economic security for the voters the Conservatives have won.
Asked whether his promise to be a one nation government meant bringing back Conservative politicians such as Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt — who left the cabinet in July after Mr Johnson took over — the prime minister said he was “not going to speculate about personalities”.
Mr Johnson said on Friday night that his stunning election victory would mark a moment of “closure” for the country after three years of Brexit agony, as he celebrated the biggest Conservative majority for more than 30 years.
“Let the healing begin,” he declared outside 10 Downing Street. Some cabinet ministers predicted Mr Johnson could use his 80-seat majority to adopt a softer approach to delivering Brexit, with some senior Tories speculating he could extend a transition period beyond December 2020.
The prime minister now faces the task of negotiating a new relationship with the EU while trying to avert a schism in the UK.
The pro-independence, anti-Brexit Scottish National party won a dramatic victory north of the border, winning 48 out of 59 seats.
Mr Johnson’s victory prompted a euphoric market response, amid relief that a solid Tory majority would bring stability back to a country wracked by internal division and uncertainty since the 2016 EU referendum.