English MP Andrew Hunter has joined the ranks of Ian Paisley’s DUP, bringing the size of their parliamentary party to seven.
Hunter, the right-wing maverick MP for the sleepy English town of Basingstoke, quit the Conservative party two years ago.
An unsuccessful DUP candidate in last year’s Six County assembly elections, he has said he does not intend to seek re-election at the next British general election.
A spokesman for the DUP said: “Andrew Hunter MP has officially joined the DUP parliamentary party and is recognised by the Speaker of the house as having done so. From yesterday, responding to the secretary of state’s statement, he will be speaking in the House of Commons as a DUP MP.”
Hunter’s move to formally join up with Paisleyism offended locals. Sheila Allen, a Conservative councillor, said: “I am amazed, there is no other word for it. This is certainly not going to do the Conservative party any good and I think the people who voted for him in 2001 will be pretty disgusted.
“This is a quiet, sleepy market town, and we are not used to sectarian arguments like this. There is not much racism here and we all get on very well together.”
Hunter left the Conservative party in October 2002, apparently inspired by his opposition to the policies David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party.
“The DUP has a consistent approach of opposition to the Belfast agreement - to its implementation - and that, I think, is the way forward,” he said. “My political home is with the mindset of the DUP and I very much hope I can play a part in their affairs.”