BORIS Johnson appeared to get the backing of Swindon Conservatives president Nick Martin.

But the veteran Shaw councillor was hedging his bets, not committing to either the former mayor of London or foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson are the final two in the fight to become Conservative Party leader, after Michael Gove was knocked-out by Tory MPs on Thursday. Now, party members will be balloted on their choice for leader – with the result announced next month.

Coun Martin, who in 2014 stepped down as mayor after his comments about disabled people having sex attracted widespread criticism, told the Adver: “It comes down to Hunt or Boris and one has to ask who has the most appeal to the general public.

“If you look at the fact that Boris got elected mayor of London twice, which is unusual for a typical Conservative it does seem to suggest he’s got a greater appeal than the other contestants.

“Whatever we think about his personality – and he may be a little eccentric – we will be looking primarily for who can win the next general election for us.”

He stressed the importance of Brexit, with whoever triumphs in the leadership race expected to ensure the UK leaves the European Union.

Throughout the campaign, former Vote Leave chief Boris Johnson has said he would be prepared to leave the EU on October 31 without a deal if necessary.

On Thursday, the former foreign secretary said: “I look forward to getting out across the UK and to set out my plan to deliver Brexit, unite our country, and create a brighter future for all of us.”

Mr Hunt, a Remainer, said during this week’s BBC debate of Tory leadership candidates that he would support a no-deal Brexit as a “last resort”. But he would extend talks to prevent disruption to business if it looked like the UK was close to finalising a deal.

Pressing home the importance of Brexit, Coun Martin said: “A lot of us voted Remain, but having given the public a choice and the public having voted as a majority for Brexit, we’re obliged to deliver Brexit.

“If we don’t, I imagine we’ll be punished for it.”

Boris Johnson’s leadership fight is backed by Swindon MPs Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson. Mr Buckland said this week: “Boris won a clear majority of MPs and now we will be able to take his case to members. I think it will be a civilised and grown-up debate."