THE chairman of the Conservative Party has said the government is going to “fight tooth and nail” to end county lines on a visit to Basingstoke.

James Cleverly MP said that county lines is a “scourge” and that he is “passionate about moving the agenda on to those issues that local people care about”.

Mr Cleverly was visiting Winklebury to speak to Basingstoke MP Maria Miller and Deputy Leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Councillor Simon Bound.

He told the Gazette: “Collectively from Westminster right through to here in Basingstoke, we are going to get this.

“County lines is a scourge, I represent a constituency in Essex and the targeting of young people for drug trafficking is vile and disgusting and we are cracking down on it.

“This is the kind of thing that those extra 20,000 police officers will make a real difference, getting local intelligence, being embedded in their local communities, finding out the kids who are being manipulated and abused and taking on the drug dealers.

“We will fight this tooth and nail.”

This comes the same day that the Gazette reported that 52 people across Hampshire, including eight in Basingstoke, were arrested as part of a national crackdown on county lines that saw more than 700 people taken into custody.

It also comes a month after Boris Johnson called county lines a “tragedy” on a visit to the area.

“It is a tragedy that kids are getting stabbed on the streets, because they are the victims of shadowy figures that are running these county lines gangs,” the Prime Minister exclusively told the Gazette.

County lines hit the headlines in Basingstoke at the end of August, when a teenager was stabbed to death in South View as part of a suspected drug deal.

Taylor Williams, 18 from London, was killed on August 31, with two people from other areas of London charged with his murder.

Mr Cleverly continued: “The home secretary is passionate about this, you’ve got a nearby MP in Kit Malthouse working in the Home Office and Maria (Miller) working locally.”