HEXHAM’S MP has refused to say who he will be backing to be the next Prime Minister.

Guy Opperman had previously backed Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who failed to gain the support of MPs.

And at a hustings event in Darlington last week, which saw Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson face questions from North-East party members, Mr Opperman was full of praise for both candidates.

Mr Opperman said: “It was great to be in Darlington last Friday, along with Conservative Party members, young and older, to see the leadership candidates put through their paces.

“Both Boris and Jeremy did extremely well and specifically addressed questions about the future opportunities for economic growth here in the North of England.

“It was clear from the hustings that either candidate will make an excellent PM and leader of the Conservative Party.”

Brexit dominated the narrative for both men at the hustings, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was frequently mentioned.

However, farming, police cuts and education funding were all discussed.

Both candidates made a speech before taking questions from CNN’s Hannah Vaughan Jones and then from the audience.

Mr Johnson said: “I think the Northern Powerhouse needs much more content. We need to be investing in broadband and high speed rail connections.

“We will continue to support UK agriculture and continue with vital support for farmers. We will make sure we don’t allow food to come in that doesn’t conform to UK hygiene or animal rights standards.”

Mr Johnson also strongly denied claims that, during his time as Foreign Secretary, information was withheld from him due to fears over his discipline.

Mr Hunt started by saying that he and Mr Johnson were not too different with their views on Brexit, in that they would both prefer to leave with a deal.

However, Mr Hunt claimed he would be better placed to negotiate with the EU due to his entrepreneurial background.

Mr Hunt said: “If you’re a sheep farmer it would be a shock if you’re suddenly faced with 40 per cent export taxes. We will try and help them adjust.

“If there’s disruption, the British Government will be there for you to help you adjust.”

Both men also claimed that, if the party failed to deliver Brexit, it could cease to exist.

Mr Hunt said: “Get this wrong, there will be no Conservative Government, no Brexit, and potentially, no Conservative Party.

“Faced with our hard left populist, we could chose our own populist, or we could chose our own Jeremy.”

Mr Johnson added: “We’re facing an existential crisis as a party and a political class.

“We asked the people if they wanted to leave the EU. The British people returned a very clear answer.

“It’s why we’re languishing in the polls.”