“I’m a 72-year-old Tory councilor and had to take THREE jobs to make ends meet.”

Tory voters in former ‘Red Wall’ seats in the North East are furious at Boris Johnson’s somber handling of the cost of living crisis.

The region has the highest claim rate for free school meals in the country. Queues at Tyneside’s People’s Kitchen, a free hot meal service, have more than doubled.

Food banks in cities and rural communities are running out due to unprecedented demand.

Johnson’s record not only loses him former Labor voters – but True Blue Tories.

A new analysis by YouGov claims the party is currently on course for big losses in key seats on the ‘Red Wall’ battlefield if nothing changes before voters next go to the polls.

The research firm estimates that if a vote were to take place now, only three of the 88 key suspension seats would remain in Conservative hands.

Pam Smailes was forced to take three extra jobs


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

It included those either won by Labor in 2019 or currently held by the Tories by less than 15 points.

Pam Smailes is a Conservative councilwoman in Yarm on Teesside – but is “really disillusioned” with his leadership.

At 72, she’s taken on three extra jobs — at a real estate agency that offers online classes and exam notes — just to make ends meet.

She said, “I can’t see the end. I’m lucky to have the skills, I’m not complaining.

“There are millions like me. These jobs are not about maintaining the standard of living. It’s about paying the bills.”

She added: “I used to be pro-Boris but I’m getting really disillusioned. He comes out with a national nutrition strategy that’s really good, but how much is used? How much of this is implemented?

“I’m tired of hearing from Partygate, there are bigger problems in this world. It took us away from the important issues like food, fuel and bills.

“I really need to think about what I’m going to do in the next election.”

Pam Smailes is a Conservative councilwoman in Yarm on Teesside


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

Pam now lives on vegetables instead of steak or chicken for her weekly shop and grows her own tomatoes.

She has reduced the use of her car to a bare minimum from her £790 monthly pension due to her £460 monthly mortgage payments.

Separated from her husband and fiercely independent, she added: “I don’t think any of the career politicians are good.

“There are very few MEPs who are there for the people. There are former doctors, lawyers who retire and go in
Parliament and become millionaires.”

Chris Zarraga represents 1,150 schools as Director of Schools North East and is a trustee of a school in nearby Middlesbrough that offers free school meals during the summer holidays.

“Many families have problems when they go to school,” he explains. “School budgets are under so much pressure because of fuel costs and heating. In urban and rural areas, this is a pretty terrible problem.”

Since 2015/6, the North East has consistently had the highest rates of students entitled to free school meals, rising from 18.4% to 29.1% in 2021/22, compared to a national average of 22.5%.

Our team of cost of living experts are here to help YOU through a very difficult year.

They bring you the latest money news and also offer expert advice.

Whether it’s skyrocketing utility bills, the cost of weekly groceries, or increased taxes, our team is always by your side.

Every Thursday at 13:00 they participate in a Facebook Live event to answer your questions and offer their advice. Visit facebook.com/dailymirror/live watch. You can read more about our team of experts here.

If you have a question – or want to share your story – please email webnews@mirror.co.uk.

In Newcastle, food charity The People’s Kitchen has doubled the number of meals served each day to almost 300, with parents bringing take-away meals to their children to save money on cooking.

When Der Spiegel visited, there were about 70 people waiting in line outside. John McCorry, chief executive of the Newcastle West End Food Bank, who starred in the film I, Daniel Blake, told how struggling families – including 14,500 children – have been helped by her ministry with food parcels over the past year.

He said: “People are finding their incomes being squeezed by more and more demands. The government helps with MoT fees – most of the people we help can’t afford a car.”

It’s not just downtown. Widower John Rowland, a lifelong Tory voter, lives in a remote stone cottage high up on the North Yorkshire moors in Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency.

As Mr Sunak builds a swimming pool at his home, Tory voters like Mr Rowland are struggling to make ends meet.

Heating for his 600-year-old estate has increased to £3,000 a year, even “turned down to the lowest setting”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson



His pensions are around £1,300 a month. For the past three years, he’s had to ditch his savings just to make ends meet after the death of his partner.

He needs to withdraw £500 a month to cover his basic groceries and fuel bills but says: “My heart bleeds for the people who don’t have that money to fall back on.

“Single pensioners have a very difficult time and couples have to be careful too. Are we starting to sell things? That’s one of the questions – I’ve started selling assets.

“This country is in a hell of a state. I’ve always voted conservative. But I don’t particularly like Boris Johnson. I don’t think his morals are what they should be.

“Is there anyone better right now? My representative here is the Chancellor, Mr. Sunak, and he has also been accused of many things. Mr Starmer too.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labor Party



“I think MPs live in a different world, do they really understand how the ordinary man and woman live? I don’t think they do. People are worried about that.

“Paying half a million pounds to take people to Rwanda on a seven-person plane. Just to rent a plane. It just doesn’t pay off.”

He spends around £50 a week on groceries, his phone bill is £36 a month, he has an annual tax bill of £1500 to pay and spends £115 a month on transport.

He volunteers for Age UK, which has spent hours helping him get support even as the charity has been hit by funding cuts. But even her vital charity work is facing unprecedented demands.

We meet Helen Hunter at Age UK’s Darlington Headquarters in Co Durham. Retirees, including army veterans, gather for camaraderie, hot food and advice from the charity’s key workers.

They were helping a pensioner in Harrogate who rode around on a bus all day and was worried about heating her house. Yet they lost £135,000 in local authority funds because of the lockdown.

She said: “For us, we can stay with people for many years, they become more frail and vulnerable, we can improve their circumstances and everyday life, but we have to stay by their side.

“It can’t be done in a few weeks, it can be done differently, but not without funding.

“We innovate, try to raise awareness and seek money from trusts and foundations.

“But charities have to work very hard to get the funding they need to survive.”

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