Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley expected to be replaced; Mark Harper puts himself in frame

Karen Bradley is likely to be shown the door. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

ONE of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson's first tasks will be to appoint his cabinet and one expected casualty of the accompanying cull will be Karen Bradley.

The departing secretary of state will be remembered as the most ineffective holder of the post, which historically was seen as a training ground ahead of greater things.

Those linked with the role to date have been few and far between.

Weekend press speculation that Michael Gove would be the new part-time resident at Hillsborough Castle was most likely an erroneous, malicious rumour circulated by Mr Johnson's team, which had the singular aim of frightening the environment secretary.

Mr Gove famously knifed the Tory leader in the back in the party leadership race of 2016 and many believe a posting to Northern Ireland would be fitting revenge.

So far, only one other contender has been linked with job. Former inmigration minister Mark Harper appeared to make his pitch last week via social media. The key to delivering Brexit, the Forest of Dean MP said, "will be getting Stormont up and running as well as ensuring a better relationship with the Republic of Ireland".

Admirable sentiments from Mr Harper but even the lamentable Mrs Bradley would know that the former task is far from straightforward, while delivering Brexit will likely only sour relations with Dublin.

Whoever is passed the poison chalice, the most important aspect of the job initially will be engaging with media, as Mrs Bradley has been criticised for her refusal to answer press questions.

Next on the agenda is carrying out a frank assessment of the current talks process, which despite assurances from Arlene Foster that it is "serious", looks to have little prospect of delivering a positive outcome any time soon.

It may also be a good idea to bring in some outside help when the talks are revived, as an objective eye, unconstrained by the Tory/DUP confidence and supply deal, will be better equipped to spot efforts to deliberately frustrate the process.

But arguably the best advice one can offer to the prospective candidate is to tell Boris you're washing your hair.

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