EXCLUSIVE: Leslie defects to the Tories…

The Northern Irish Tories remain a shadow of their glory days when in 1992 Lawrence Kennedy took 32% of the North Down Westminister vote. Yet Slugger hears that tomorrow they will announce their latest Unionist defector, James Leslie. A former MLA, Leslie was dropped by the North Antrim Unionist Association: a somewhat short-sighted move, perhaps, since he was considered a highly talented junior minister with a solid local voter base. Their prefered candidate, James Curry, went on to lose Leslie’s seat to the DUP.

Widely regarded as one of their more able ministers, he served as David Trimble’s right hand man in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister. It is blow for Reg Empey, who must be concerned at the loss of such talent. And equally concerned at the possibility of further defections.

As for the Tories, well, Leslie’s not a sitting MLA but it’s certainly a significant rise on the last defection. This is a serious coup for the Conservatives.

We understand the Belfast Telegraph is carrying a fuller interview with Leslie tomorrow.