Bullish Boris Johnson hits the campaign trail in Hartlepool

A bullish Boris Johnson hit the campaign trail in Hartlepool today amid fears the bitter 'wallpapergate' row is starting to hit Tory support.

The PM chatted with voters and posed for selfies with just days left before the 'Super Thursday' elections - when the town will elect a new MP.

The Conservatives have been hoping to pull off a massive coup by seizing the constituency from Labour. Victory would underline the destruction of the 'Red Wall' that secured Mr Johnson's huge majority in 2019, although Tory insiders have been desperately playing down their chances.

But there are signs that the party's huge poll lead is starting to be reeled in after a grim tide of stories about lobbying, cronyism and Mr Johnson's lavish refurbishment of his grace-and-favour flat.

Polls over the weekend showed a significant narrowing, in a glimmer of light for Keir Starmer, who has been repeatedly attacking 'Tory sleaze'.

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Alongside the Hartlepool seat and 5,000 councillors, key mayoral posts in the West Midlands, Tees Valley, and London are also up for grabs on Thursday.

The contest for Holyrood in Scotland is set to decide whether Nicola Sturgeon mounts a push for a fresh independence referendum.   

Boris Johnson chatted with voters and posed for selfies in Hartlepool with just days left before the 'Super Thursday' elections - when the town will elect a new MP

Boris Johnson chatted with voters and posed for selfies in Hartlepool with just days left before the 'Super Thursday' elections - when the town will elect a new MP

The Conservatives have been hoping to pull off a massive coup by seizing the Hartlepool constituency from Labour

The Conservatives have been hoping to pull off a massive coup by seizing the Hartlepool constituency from Labour

A bullish Boris Johnson hit the campaign trail in Hartlepool today amid fears the bitter 'wallpapergate' row is starting to hit Tory support

A bullish Boris Johnson hit the campaign trail in Hartlepool today amid fears the bitter 'wallpapergate' row is starting to hit Tory support

The PM (pictured with Carrie Symonds last year) has been struggling to quell the 'wallpapergate' row over his grace-and-favour residence

The PM (pictured with Carrie Symonds last year) has been struggling to quell the 'wallpapergate' row over his grace-and-favour residence

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A senior minister today refused to say that Boris Johnson will quit if he is found to have broken conduct rules over his lavish flat makeover - despite the Scottish Tory leader insisting he would have to go.

James Cleverly dodged questions, suggesting that the ministerial code was merely there for the 'guidance of the PM' when he appoints his team.

The comments came despite Douglas Ross, the most senior Tory north of the border, saying bluntly that 'of course' Mr Johnson should resign if he did not abide by the standards.

Several probes are under way into the tangled financing of the costly refurbishment – including an investigation by Mr Johnson's new adviser on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt.

Meanwhile, the PM is also facing allegations that Tory donors were approached to pay for his personal trainer and a nanny for his son Wilf. 

However, as head of the Government the premier is still the final arbiter on any breaches of the ministerial code. 

In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mr Cleverly was repeatedly pressed on whether Mr Johnson should resign if he broke the ministerial code. 

'The ministerial code is there for the guidance of the PM in appointing ministers,' he told Sky News.

'I don't know any more detail than the things the PM has

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