Northern Ireland news

Jim Wells spoiled deputy leadership ballot paper because he 'could not vote for either candidate'

DUP MLA Jim Wells spoiled his vote in the DUP deputy leadership contest

FORMER health minister Jim Wells spoiled his vote in the DUP deputy leadership contest because he says he could not vote for either candidate

North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley won Friday's election, beating Gregory Campbell by 18 votes to 16, and becoming the first woman to fill the DUP deputy leader's role.

Edwin Poots' ally Paul Frew withdrew from what have been a three-way contest on the day. It is understood the North Antrim MLA dropped out as part of a deal that secured two votes for the agriculture minister in the leadership race, without which he would not have won.

The deal was struck on the basis that Ms Bradley would gain the support of the Poots' camp, ensuring she defeated Mr Campbell.

There were two spoiled votes in the deputy leadership election, one of which was Mr Wells.

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The South Down MLA told The Irish News that he wrote the name of Paul Frew on the ballot paper, as a "write-in candidate".

The other spoiled vote is thought to have been a ballot paper belonging to one of the MPs who backed Mr Poots.

The former health minister said: "I could not bring myself to vote for Paula Bradley or Gregory Campbell."

Mr Wells said he was "deeply disappointed" that Mr Frew didn't stand and only learned of his decision along with other members of the party's electoral college as the candidates made their final hustings pitch on Friday.

"In regards to Paula Bradley, I could not vote for her due to he social and moral views," he said.

"And I couldn't vote for Gregory Campbell because he was a strong supporter of Arlene Foster."

Ms Bradley is cast as one of the party's most liberal representatives, having previously supported LGBT issues and said that she is not a practising Christian.

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