With Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt set to become the new Conservative Party leader, Matt Smart revisits the last time the prospective Prime Minsters visited North Devon.

Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.

The race to become the new Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister is down to two, with the option of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt being put before party members to determine who moves into 10 Downing Street.

On the whole, the visit of a high-profile MP or cabinet minister to North Devon or Torridge can be quite rare, but Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have both made it down in recent years.

Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.

I covered both of those visits with the Gazette, and the two occasions could not have been more different.

Mr Johnson's visit to Chulmleigh Community College came a week after the EU Referendum in 2016. He wasn't a cabinet minister. He wasn't a former-cabinet minister. He was Boris, the jovial, entertaining, former-Mayor of London who had just campaigned to leave the EU, and - the day before his visit - just ruled himself out of becoming the next PM.

Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.Boris Johnson visits Chulmleigh Community College in 2016. Picture: Guy Harrop.

His visit to the school was a whirlwind. With teachers, governors, pupils and parents waiting eagerly for a special guest, Boris breezed in for a whistle-stop tour, jotting down notes as headteacher Michael Johnson guided him around the school.

A hasty cream tea followed before a speech to those who had gathered, complete with jokes about whether he and the Chulmleigh headteacher were related, and declaring the school 'even more open than four years ago'. A hard hat and high-visibilty vest followed for him to lay a foundation stone for the next phase of building.

Journalists covering the visit were allowed two minutes of questions each, but questions of the leadership race were off the table.

"It's very nice to be out of London…It's only a day out of Westminster, I wish it was longer - it's a much safer environment here," was as close to a quote about the EU referendum and the leadership contest as we could get.

Jeremy Hunt departing from North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Hunt departing from North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Matt Smart

By contrast, Mr Hunt's visit to North Devon District Hospital in August 2017 was a much more low-key affair.

In fact, had it not been for a tip-off, the then-Health Secretary would have came and went with as few people knowing about it as possible.

Jeremy Hunt departing from North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Matt SmartJeremy Hunt departing from North Devon District Hospital. Picture: Matt Smart

The 'private visit' saw Mr Hunt call in at the hospital, where staff had been unaware of the visit until that morning.

Mr Hunt and chief clinical advisor Sir Norman Williams met with some 50 members of staff including nurses, doctors, therapists and social care staff.

Jeremy Hunt talks to staff at North Devon District Hospital.Jeremy Hunt talks to staff at North Devon District Hospital.

During the visit, Mr Hunt spoke to staff about patient safety, calling it a key focus for the health service.

Admittedly, I wasn't able to get that close to Mr Hunt - a camera with a long lens just meant I was able to get some pictures of him leaving.