DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson declined to say who would be his preferred winner in the Conservative Party leadership debate, but suggested that Liz Truss’ support for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill would do her good.
Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak clashed live on the BBC on Monday night during a heated televised debate in which the pair smashed each other’s economic plans as personal attacks continued as Mr Sunak was accused by Ms allies. Trass in “mansplaning” during the debate.
DUP MP Ian Paisley was one of the few in his party to publicly support Ms Truss to become the next prime minister and said the unions would “trust” her more.
However, his party leader said he had to work with “whoever the prime minister is” and also expressed concern about the electoral damage done to the Tories by the public nature of the contest.
“On the one hand, it is clear that Liz Truss is the person who pushed the protocol bill and was very supportive of it, but the indications that we have received from the Rishi Sunak camp is that in the absence of an agreement with the EU, he will continue with the bill, and we applaud it,” said Sir Geoffrey in an interview with the Nolan Show.
“I’m not going to get carried away or support one particular candidate, because at the end of the day, as party leader, I have to work with the prime minister, whoever he is.
“I thought it was a really strong leadership debate. I’m a little worried, to be honest, that the Conservative Party publicly showing its differences will hurt its electoral prospects in the short to medium term.
“I think it’s important that whoever is elected as leader, they will unite the party again like my own party when we passed our leadership contest last year.
“It was a painful experience, a difficult experience, at times it was revealed to the public. It takes time to heal.”
The DUP was engulfed in turmoil last summer over the removal of former leader Arlene Foster and the brief reign of Edwin Poots as leader.
When asked if his party was “healed,” Mr. Donaldson pointed to his “long, long friendship” with Mr. Poots.
“I think that it’s [healed]. For example, last week I had a great evening in south Belfast with Edwin and his team,” added the DUP leader.
“I don’t think we’ve ever fought and I’m not the type of person to let political differences get in the way of our long friendship.”
Meanwhile, while the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is going through its stages in the House of Commons, Sir Geoffrey said his party will continue to follow the bill’s progress through the House of Lords “very closely and closely.”
Northern Ireland does not currently have a Stormont government due to the DUP’s opposition to protocol and their refusal to appoint a Speaker of the Assembly until the matter is resolved.
“I said that we will be monitoring progress very closely and closely. We welcome the fact that the bill is at all stages in the House of Commons. We know there will be opposition within the Lords,” said Sir Geoffrey.
“What I really want to find out from whoever becomes the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister… is the level of their commitment to the bill and its promotion. This commitment will be essential to ensure the victory of the Government, whatever opposition may be in the Lords.
“In the absence of an agreement with the EU, we want the bill to become law. We hope that in the next few weeks, when we will undoubtedly have a new prime minister, the government will present a draft regulation that will take into account the provisions of the bill implemented.”