Theresa Villiers replaces Owen Paterson as Northern Ireland Secretary in the cabinet reshuffle. With law degrees from Bristol and Oxford, the self-confessed workaholic worked as a barrister and lecturer before being elected as an MEP for London in 1999. Six years later in 2005 she swapping Brussels for Westminster when elected as MP for Chipping Barnet.
As a result of a legal challenge, which the government intends to defend robustly, we have not yet signed the contract with First West Coast, and consequently the competition remains live.
In recent weeks as Minister of State for Transport she has been embroiled in the West Coast Main Line rail franchise debate – she describes franchise decisions as “her baby” – and between legal challenge and promotion, Theresa Villiers won’t get to sign the contract after all. Her shift from Transport – along with Transport Secretary Justine Greening whose constituency lies under the Heathrow flightpath – may allow the government’s aviation policy to shift, particularly around where to build runways and capacity in the South East of England.
She’s on record [Ed – quoted in Wikipedia!] as questioning the power of Europe.
The (European) Constitution is designed to create a country called Europe and give ever more power to Brussels at the expense of nationally elected governments. I think that’s bad for democracy, bad for Britain and bad for Europe.
In her new role she’ll get to balance centrist Westminster with the devolved NI Assembly and Executive.
Villiers spent 18 months as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so her enthusiasm for the long–running Corporation Tax debate will be interesting.
A Total Politics interview published in February 2012 notes that she “was disappointed” when appointed as minister of state for transport (a ministerial rather than cabinet position).
No matter how enthusiastic one is, no matter how much of a workaholic, the volume of stuff to get through, correspondence and decisions, is pretty massive. I enjoy the job, and am happy to devote pretty much all my working waking hours to it, but it’s certainly demanding, there’s no doubt about that.
With substantial policy areas now devolved, will she be bored with NI? Her agenda over the coming months will include the NIO consultation on devolution reforms kicked off by Paterson, and deciding on how to move the parading debate forwards.
It seems to me that resilience and sticking power is a key quality in politics. You never know what’s coming round the corner. It’s very important to be resilient, to stick in the job and do whatever job you’re given absolutely to the best of your abilities.
Northern Ireland will test that resolve!
In the meantime while the old Secretary of State cleans out his flat at Hillsborough (and starts reading briefing papers for his new job as Environment Secretary) and the incoming one books a flight to make her first visit as SoS, what will you remember about Owen Paterson’s time in Northern Ireland?