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Boris Johnson claims are 'leftie nonsense', claims DUP's Wilson

Boris Johnson in Birmingham on Saturday after police were called to the house he shares with partner Carrie Symonds
Boris Johnson in Birmingham on Saturday after police were called to the house he shares with partner Carrie Symonds
Carrie Symonds
The house Johnson shares with partner Carrie Symonds

By Gillian Halliday

A DUP MP has said Boris Johnson's alleged domestic troubles should not detract from the Tory leadership race or influence its outcome.

Sammy Wilson was speaking last night as Mr Johnson evaded questions following an incident at his home.

Police were called on Friday evening to the London house he shares with his partner Carrie Symonds. Officers attended after neighbours reported hearing a loud altercation.

The incident took place just hours after the Tory leadership contest was whittled down to two contenders, Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Yesterday Mr Johnson, who addressed the annual DUP party conference last November, faced calls to explain what had happened.

However, Mr Wilson branded the political attacks on the prominent Brexiteer as "leftie nonsense".

"It shows the kind of intolerant people all these left-wingers are," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Those who would have us living in East German Stasi states if they had their way."

The East Antrim MP said the headlines should not be allowed to overshadow who will become Theresa May's successor as Prime Minister.

"I don't believe that should be allowed to detract from the leadership race," he added.

"It shouldn't influence the leadership race in any way."

Mr Wilson also declined to say whether he was backing Mr Johnson or Mr Hunt.

"We've always said that this is an issue for the Conservative Party," he said.

"We've never expressed any preference. This is an internal Conservative Party issue.

"We will work with whoever is selected."

Mr Wilson said both candidates have a clear understanding of the DUP's opposition to elements of the withdrawal agreement, particularly the controversial backstop.

"Both candidates have said they want a new agreement or to leave with no agreement," he added.

He was speaking just hours after party colleague, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, also refused to say who the DUP backs to become the next Prime Minister.

The DUP holds the balance of power at Westminster, with the Conservative Party relying on its 10 MPs to remain in government.

Mr Robinson told the BBC's Sunday Politics show: "You'd be amazed at how many people in the House of Commons want to build a relationship with (the DUP).

"And we do have good relationships with almost all of the candidates that were seeking to be on the paper to succeed as Conservative leader, and the same is true of Jeremy Hunt."

He also addressed Mr Johnson's controversial U-turn on voting for Mrs May's Brexit deal despite the Tory previously stating that he would not back it.

Mr Robinson said he was convinced that Mr Johnson now accepts the "flaws" with the backstop, which has always been opposed by the DUP.

"I think there was a quest within the Conservative ranks to get this done in the belief that even if you were to vote for the withdrawal agreement, you could change it afterwards," he explained.

"We saw the flaw in that approach at the time so we didn't back (it) because we believed once the structures of the agreement were affirmed, it would be very difficult to change those structures. Boris Johnson now accepts that's the right case."

He added that he believes both Tory candidates understand the DUP's stance on the withdrawal agreement, including its fears of a border down the Irish Sea.

"So the position they have adopted through this campaign, and previously, is positive from a unionist perspective," he said.

Mr Robinson also said the leadership contest would not stop the ongoing Stormont political talks to restore power-sharing here.

"We think Northern Ireland as a society benefits from having a democratically elected, locally accountable, decision-making process. We want to see that now and when a deal is right, a deal will be done," he said.

Mr Robinson insisted the "willingness is there" to end the political impasse here but accepted not all of the issues had been resolved.

"The engagement, you could say, starts and stops, but there is a level of productivity now where I think the engagement is sincere," he added.

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