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David Trimble supports Michael Gove to lead Tories as Theresa Villiers backs Andrea Leadsom

David Trimble has backed Michael Gove in the Conservative Party leadership race

FORMER Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has declared his backing for Michael Gove in the Conservative Party leadership race.

Northern Ireland secretary of state Theresa Villiers has also publicly spoken about her first choice for party leader.

Tory MPs yesterday began the process of selecting a new leader and whittled the field of five candidates down to just two to go before the party membership.

Justice minister Mr Gove received the support of Lord Trimble, a former Stormont First Minister.

"I’ve been involved in critical negotiations in the past, I know what it takes and Michael Gove has it," said Lord Trimble.

"He is without doubt the most qualified candidate to be our next prime minister."

Another Tory hopeful Andrea Leadsom, who voted to leave the EU, has received the backing of Ms Villiers, who said she was in "no doubt" that the energy minister was the right person for the job.

"Andrea is a woman of principle," said Ms Villiers.

"Her message is fresh and optimistic and it's backed up by a lifetime of business and political experience."

Ms Leadsom has also won the support of prominent Brexit-backer Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary.

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