A senior DUP MP has claimed the people of Northern Ireland “will be better off” if Theresa May was to stay on as prime minister.
The remarks by Gregory Campbell come after Mrs May insisted she is “not a quitter” and vowed to lead the Conservatives into the next general election.
The decision to come out fighting followed reports that she was preparing to stand down the day before Britain leaves the European Union in 2019.
During a visit to Japan, Mrs May set out her plan to fight on, promising to deliver social reforms that will give the country a “brighter future”.
Asked if she intends to fight the next election, she said: “Yes. There’s been an awful lot of speculation about my future which has no basis in it whatsoever. I’m in this for the long term.”
In the wake of the prime minister’s defiant comments, the News Letter asked East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell if the DUP welcomed her pledge to remain in office.
While Mr Campbell highlighted that the matter was “an internal one” for the Tories, he said his party had enjoyed a “reasonably good relationship” with Mrs May during her tenure as prime minister so far.
After Mrs May suffered a disastrous election result back in June that saw her lose the Conservative majority, the DUP struck a £1bn ‘confidence and supply’ deal to keep her in power.
Mr Campbell said: “When the DUP reached an agreement with the Conservatives in June, everyone, even our political enemies, agreed that it could only be a good thing.
“So if you have someone at the helm who you have been involved in successful negotiations with, why would you want to advocate for change?
“From our experience so far, Mrs May staying on as prime minister is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”
However, Mr Campbell stressed it was not his place to offer an opinion on who should be the leader of another party.
“The self-evident truth is that it is entirely a matter for the Tory party to choose who will lead them into the next election,” he added.
“If the tables were reversed, I would not like to hear some Tory MP giving his opinion on who should be the leader of the DUP.
“What I am simply saying is that we have had a reasonably good relationship with Mrs May up to this point, so we see no reason to call for any change.”
Critics of Mrs May’s approach, including former ministers Nicky Morgan and Grant Shapps, said it would be difficult for her to continue following the recent election result.
Former party chairman Mr Shapps said it was “too early” for Mrs May to talk about going “on and on” like Margaret Thatcher, adding: “I don’t think there’s an appetite for leadership elections right at this moment.”
Dismissing criticism of her vow to fight the next general election, Mrs May insisted the public wants the government to “get on with the job” of dealing with the challenges facing the country.