“His hairstyle is like his style in government – all over,” sighs John Hampson, sipping his latte in an empty town center in Darlington.
The voters in the Red Wall seats – the once Labor strongholds that gave Boris Johnson a throbbing Tory majority – are angry, and few buy his latest response for apparent lockdown breaches.
“He’s a shocking idiot, to put it bluntly,” jokes 88-year-old Ridley Jones.
“He should resign – a man in his position must not lie, and he has lied and lied and lied. I have voted conservative all my life and it was not easy from a mining town. Now he’s done this. “
Heather, a retiree from nearby Stockton, another of Johnson’s gains, made the decision to turn his back on the Tories this week.
“I only voted Conservative in 2019 because I did not want Corbyn to come in, but there is no way I would do it now.
“My mother-in-law is 97 years old this year and she is disgusted. She says she has never seen anything like it.
“He can not just say he was wrong and move on when people have lost loved ones, as they did. The more I think about it, the more I think he should step down.”
Hartlepool only entered political history last year: the election of a Conservative MP for the first time in its history and cemented Johnson’s apparent invincibility when he was given a seat midway through.
Things look more uncertain today.
“There’s a lot of turmoil with the government here, it’s a sensitive issue,” said Mark Knox, a local coffee shop employee, while his colleague nodded enthusiastically.
“He has shot himself in the foot. If you want to make a law that says you must not have people around, then you have broken it, then you must be held accountable. You would not see any of us come to to say “really sorry mate” and move on, right?
But many locals will not be moved from one day to the next.
Audrey Manners, who lives on a farm near Darlington, sticks to the Tories, if not their leader.
“I would not be too strict with him. But the other man, Rishi, he would probably be better. He is much calmer and seems sensible. He is a thinking man.”
Others believe the scandal surrounding his behavior is exaggerated. “Didn’t everyone have secret parties at the time?” says a woman in pink, glitter-filled eyeliner and refuses to disclose her name.
“Just because they’re in government and MPs, does not mean they can not have a little fun. We all did, people tumbled in and out of each other’s houses in peace.”
Johnson’s defenders point to tangible results: Brexit and vaccine rollout are most prominent among them.
And while people are angry and let down by the seated occupier of Downing Street, there is little enthusiasm for Keir Starmer’s Labor.
Jack McCabe of Hartlepool may be just the kind of man who can save the Prime Minister.
“I voted for Labor all my life, but not again. Boris handled Covid, he’s done Brexit, and he’s worked himself to pieces.
“The only reason people try him is because they all want his job. They do not care about us. But I got my plugs because of him and I would get another lightning fast if he says so. “