SHOP owners have praised potential Prime Minister Jeremy Hunt after he promised to support small business during a visit to Canvey.

Jilly Newell, 54, owner of Jilly Beans, in Furtherwick Road, Canvey said she was very pleased to meet Mr Hunt.

She said: “We had a hug and a little squeeze.

“He was a really nice man, and he interacted well with lots of people.

“He was funny and had a sense of humour.

“I think his plans for business rates are absolutely a great idea.

“I think something’s got to be done to help and support our businesses.

“This could help me in the future.

“I think it’s great that he was down speaking with people, I think it’s important.”

Peter Tassell, 58, a franchise owner of three McDonald’s restaurants in south Essex also met with the Foreign Secretary today. 

Mr Tassell employs about 500 staff at his restaurants, with two in Castle Point and one in Pitsea.

He said: “I think the fact he came to Castle Point shows the importance of our area.

“Like everybody, we just want some stability for everything and the future.

“I am unsure who I am backing for the future prime minister, at this stage.

“But I was very impressed by Mr Hunt during his visit.”

The Foreign Secretary took the chance to speak with a number of island traders, even joking with one about booking a hair cut.

Mr Hunt, who is vying to be the next Tory leader, hopes that reaching out to areas with struggling town centres and High Streets which need a boost will give him the edge among the 160,000 Tory members over clear favourite Boris Johnson.

Members of the Tory party are due to vote for their favourite next month.