The former foreign secretary is the current frontrunner of the Conservative Party leadership race, leaving rival Jeremy Hunt trailing behind. He has been clear he will take the UK out of the EU by the October 31 deadline “do or die”. And Mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen believes Mr Johnson is the best candidate who will listen to northern people, who were “crying out for change” in unemployment rates and investment in infrastructure when they voted to leave in the 2016 referendum.
He told Express.co.uk: “In Boris Johnson, we have a positive pragmatist with experience to do the job. Someone with grit and a natural optimism with a vision for post-Brexit Britain and a nation reunited.
“Boris sees the need to transform and rebalance our economy to make it work in the interests of everyone. Connecting our great towns and cities with Northern Powerhouse Rail, rolling out full-fibre broadband, and recognising the importance of clean, green energy to our future prosperity.
“This is what we need in the north. Someone who will not only listen to us and deliver what we voted for in June 2016, but address the injustices that led to the Brexit vote in the first place.
“The people I represent are crying out for change and a government that will listen. Not only a government that will spread wealth across the North, but one that will restore people’s faith in the democratic process. A government that will put to bed the dangerous and growing belief that we are no longer in control of our destiny and that voting changes nothing.”
Mr Johnson said he “believes passionately” that travel infrastructure in the north should be improved in order to “enable people to change their lives” during a leadership hustings held at Manchester Central on Saturday evening.
The two candidates were asked about their commitment to closing the north-south divide through a concept called The Northern Powerhouse.
Mr Johnson admitted that mass transport in the north needs to be “much, much better”, according to Manchester Evening News.
He said: “I think the Northern Powerhouse is a fantastic concept that needs to be filled with more content.
“We need to take it forward and we need to reboot it, I think there is a risk that people will start to disbelieve it and start to disbelieve our sincerity.
“And so, we’ve got to get on and deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and we’ve got to make sense of that slogan. All these concepts must be taken from the realm of generality and made particular.
“I certainly do want to see much better connectivity across the whole area, better rail links from Liverpool to Manchester to Hull, to Newcastle. That is where there is so much potential.
“I really believe in this absolutely passionately, because I’ve seen in London, if you invest in mass transit, affordable for people on modest incomes, you will enable them to change their lives.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt was asked during the hustings whether he would put the north “at the front of the queue” for future investment.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham asked him: “Do you agree with me that truly delivering a Northern Powerhouse means putting the north of England at the front of the queue for all infrastructure investment for the next 30 years, as London has been for the last 30, and not just a commitment to HS2 and HS3?”
Mr Hunt replied: “I think a commitment to spread wealth around the country does mean that we have to do the Northern Powerhouse and I am prepared to put money behind it and I am prepared to make HS2 happened.
“I accept it is more than just those big infrastructure projects, but there is some doubt about those infrastructure projects, and let me say this, at the point where Brexit, the whole world is looking at us and they are saying ‘is this a country that is economically confident, sure of its future?’
“If we were to cancel our biggest national infrastructure at that point it would be a terrible message to send round the world, so we have to back the plans that we have got, but we have to go further.”