British Prime Minister could be from Northern Ireland, says top Tory

A Northern Ireland MP could be a future British Prime Minister under an Ulster Unionist-backed Conservative government, former Tory Leader William Hague William Hague has claimed.

He was speaking at the launching of the joint Conservatives, Ulster Unionist election program in South Antrim.

"Any of our candidates elected here will take their place as part of David Cameron's team with exactly the same rights and responsibilities as Conservatives from Scotland, Wales, England... and Yorkshire.

"And any of them will have exactly the same opportunity to serve as a minister as MPs from anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

"Imagine the message that would be sent around the world if, in time, the Foreign Secretary or the Home Secretary, the Environment Secretary or even the Prime Minister in a UK Government sat for a constituency in Northern Ireland.

"There would be no better way of saying that the semi-detached status of Northern Ireland had come to an end and that Northern Ireland was back in the mainstream of British politics."

Hague denied that recent comments by David Cameron that were critical of state spending in Northern Ireland meant major cutbacks.

"We want to re-balance the Northern Ireland economy to end its over-dependence on the public sector," he said.

"But we recognize that it will take time, perhaps as long as 25 years. To do nothing would be irresponsible. But to do anything too quickly would be a reckless too," he said.