Conservative candidate Dehenna Davison was joined by party chairman James Cleverly in Barnard Castle last week
Conservative candidate Dehenna Davison was joined by party chairman James Cleverly in Barnard Castle last week

THE chairman of the Conservative party says there is an appetite for British farming goods and wants to see Union Jack products around the world – not just in the EU.

The day before the annual Tory party conference in Manchester, MP James Cleverly made a visit to Barnard Castle to speak to local party members and dale farmers.

His visit is being seen as the Tory party stepping up efforts to win the Bishop Auckland seat from the Labour in the event of an election. At the last election, Labour MP Helen Goodman beat Conservative Chris Adams by 502 votes – a significant reduction of previous Labour majorities in the constituency.

Mr Cleverly told the Mercury he was happy to be away from the “fractious atmosphere” in Westminster.

Before answering questions at Clarendon’s Cafe, Mr Cleverly, accompanied by Bishop Auckland candidate Dehenna Davison, talked about farming, health care and his vision for the future. He said there was a bright future for the farming industry and claimed that by getting Brexit done, it would enable the government to concentrate on trade deals across the globe.

Commenting on one reader’s comments that people are fed up with the uncertainty, he said: “Whether you are Tracey from the dales or a sheep farmer, they just wanted to know where they stand.” He added: “We want to resolve this issue [Brexit] and I think we can and it will need to be resolved to get where we want to be. I’ve spoken to lots of people around the country and what I am picking up is we need get this done [Brexit].”

Mr Cleverly said the government was keen to move on and focus on issues including regulations surrounding farming subsidies. He said the government aimed to simplify the system to make it easier for smaller farmers to manage and wanted to showcase products on a global setting.

He said he believed there was a strong appetite for buying local and supporting local producers. Mr Cleverly said: “There are some really strong economical reasons for looking to support British produce, but there are also some very good ecological ones as well as it will help reduce the carbon footprint.”

But he added the appetite for British farming products abroad went further than the EU. He said: “There are countries around the world who are willing to pay more when they see products with the Union Jack on as they perceive quality, which is especially good for our food and drink producers, especially in this area. I get to speak to lots of people across the world and they see the quality and what I want to see is Union Jack products in places like Japan and Africa. It’s not just about the EU and that is one of the real options for the food and farming sector.”

Health was another issue Mr Cleverly wanted to speak about and said it was not just a case of throwing more money at the situation, but “unpicking some of the really bad spending” that had causes problems with PFI contracts. He admitted he didn’t know of the situation at the Richardson Hospital, which has seen its extended hours service removed but endorsed Ms Davison as the right candidate to listen to local concerns. He said: “This is why having someone who listens and brings it to the table at Westminster and have the ear of the health minster and make the case for the area of Teesdale.”

l Look out for an interview with MP Helen Goodman later this month.