Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has been derided as “foolish” by his party in Northern Ireland for the “odd alliance” he appears to have forged with the DUP.
The criticism comes as the Eurosceptic backbencher has defended his decision to snub his own party in Northern Ireland, choosing instead to speak at a DUP fundraiser later this month.
Mr Rees-Mogg will speak at an event organised by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley which will raise money for the DUP – a party which will be standing against the Tories in May’s council elections.
His decision not to accept an invitation to speak at a NI Conservatives fundraiser in favour of a similar DUP event was criticised by former deputy chairman of the NI Conservatives Frank Shivers, who had approached the Tory backbencher with a view to him coming to the Province.
Mr Rees-Mogg has defended his decision, saying there is “little to read in to” him declining the offer to speak at an NI Conservatives fundraiser.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the i newspaper: “I am looking forward to being the guest of the DUP in January which I will combine with a visit to the Titanic museum with one of my children.
“The chancellor of the exchequer and Boris Johnston addressed the recent DUP conference so it is clear that Tories are allowed to address such events.
“As I speak to nearly 100 Conservative functions a year there is little to read in to my refusal to accept a particular invitation.”
Alan Dunlop, chairman of the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, suggested Mr Rees-Mogg has made an “odd alliance”.
He said: “Backbench MPs are free to speak to anyone they wish to. There is a clear convention within the Conservative Party, however, not to speak in support of rival political parties.
“Jacob Rees-Mogg is a highly respected member of the party with impeccable knowledge of UK constitutional politics and conventions and therefore will be fully aware of this.
“Sadly on occasions, often in an honest defence of their principle political views, politicians find themselves making odd alliances and standing elements of their own political logic on their heads. They make themselves look foolish when they do so.”
Mr Dunlop added: “We will extend understanding to our colleague Jacob on this occasion and hope that when he visits he will accept our invitation for a cup of tea so that we can discuss with him the important political issues facing Northern Ireland in 2019 in detail.”