Mixed views on Tory leadership contenders from party members in Northern Ireland

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were quizzed by Conservative Party members at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak

There were mixed views from members of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland after hearing from the two candidates to become the next leader.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were quizzed by members during a hustings event at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast.

The Brexit protocol, the Stormont Assembly, the health service, abortion, foreign policy and support for the party in Northern Ireland were among the issues raised.

There are around 600 members in Northern Ireland who can vote for the next party leader and prime minister.

Martin Craigs said he remained undecided after hearing their pitches.

He said he felt their content in terms of Northern Ireland had been “very weak”.

“They’re sitting on the fence, this isn’t the audience they’re playing to, the audience they’re playing to are the 160,000 Conservative members, and there are very few of them in Northern Ireland, but they obviously have to go to all corners of the UK to be seen to be democratic,” he told the PA news agency.

“I might actually not vote at all because I think the performance has been so poor.”

Matthew Robinson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives, welcomed the candidates’ visit and paid tribute to the commitment they were showing to the region.

He said he had been holding back on deciding who to vote for, but based on what he heard at the hustings he would back Ms Truss.

“I think she outlined an unwavering commitment to what we do locally here as a political force,” he said.

“I’m not just encouraged but excited about what we can achieve together during her hopeful premiership.”

He said the purpose of hustings is to have a robust exchange of ideas, and it was an opportunity for the members to put their questions to the next prime minister.

“My decision is in a personal capacity, it is up to our own members to decide who they’re going to support,” he said.

“If you look at polling, obviously there is a suggestion that Liz Truss is faring well in this campaign, but it’s up to our members who to back.

“I think there are two excellent candidates, I have made my decision now but it’s up to members who they support.”

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