Belfast Telegraph

It's anybody's race as Northern Ireland Tories fail to pick leading man

Angela Dickinson, a Boris Johnson supporter, from Larne
Angela Dickinson, a Boris Johnson supporter, from Larne
Sheila Bodel, from east Belfast, in the Jeremy Hunt camp
Roland McMurray
Bentley Robinson and Keir Crozier
Allan Preston

Conservative Party members in Northern Ireland came face-to-face with their next Prime Minister yesterday, with many still undecided on which candidate to support.

Angela Dickinson, aged in her 70s, from Larne, said she was certain Boris Johnson was the best candidate.

"I think Boris is going to get us over the line. I was in London when he was mayor and he made extraordinary changes, so from that point of view I know he can do things and works extraordinarily well as a team player."

She added: "I have every confidence he can find a solution to the backstop and Stormont.

"He has practicality and optimism, there's no point in being dispirited about our chances."

Sheila Bodel (32), from east Belfast, said Jeremy Hunt had shown a more genuine interest in Northern Ireland.

"I hadn't decided before today but I think I'm going to go towards Jeremy. He really impressed me in the passion he has for Northern Ireland, in everything he was saying about getting involved, and getting Stormont working again, which rang all the bells for me."

Of the two candidates, she said Mr Hunt would be more likely to give the same hands-on approach shown by Tony Blair during the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

"I was very impressed. Boris didn't quite have as much of a passion for it, that was very concerning for me personally as he is normally a very passionate individual. I think Jeremy also had just a little bit more detail."

Bentley Robinson (62), from Holywood, said he felt Boris Johnson was the only candidate who genuinely believed in Brexit.,"His vision for Brexit is to get out of it and stop all this nonsense that's been going on for three years," he said.

Keir Crozier (25), from Portadown, agreed, saying: "I think I would trust him more to do a deal that truly delivers on the result of the referendum.

"If needs be, I can't see Hunt doing something like breaking parliament, Boris might do that.

"So as a Conservative party member if we don't deliver Brexit we're finished, so it has to be Boris."

Brian Kernahan (54) from the Lisburn Road in Belfast said he was more convinced by Jeremy Hunt's grasp of detail.

"I think he seems more like a politician, he seems to have better prepared answers to questions rather than off the cuff," said Mr Kernahan.

"The border is the most important issue to me, it affects my business so he is the best candidate."

Gary Hynds (34), deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Conservatives said: "I can't endorse either of the candidates openly in my role but I am on their side, I'm happy to listen to them both.

"I liked their support for the party here which is very important going forward. It's very encouraging they seemed to offer more backing for getting candidates elected here. eremy Hunt was especially clear by saying he would back our members 100% - so I think our members are very happy with that."

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