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New British PM

You might have noticed that Queen Elizabeth II decided not to go to London for the appointment of the UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss.


Instead, PM-elect Truss had to travel to Balmoral, which is not the handiest place to get to in the middle of the week if you are just meeting someone for a cup of tea. Not only that, but an enormous fleet of journalists, advisers and other camp followers had to go along too. Flights into (and very quickly out of) Aberdeen were booked up immediately providing a significant boost to the local economy.


The Queen could be forgiven for not decamping to London. This is the UK’s 4th Tory PM since the Brexit vote. Already, there is a group of 12 Conservative MPs who are considering tabling a motion of no confidence in Liz Truss in an effort to bring Boris back.


The event is called the ‘kissing of hands’ and it won’t have escaped Liz senior that Liz junior at one time advocated for the abolition of the monarchy. As such, a handshake sufficed on the occasion.


You can imagine the new PM arriving back to Westminster with her key to 10 Downing Street only to be greeted with, “May I be the first to call on you to resign?” Truly, UK politics is the gift that keeps on giving.


A fun fact is that the UK has had as many Prime Ministers since 2016 as that other serial sacker of PMs, Italy.


What was also extraordinary (and not extraordinary in many ways) about the events of earlier this week is the difficulty that the PM is reported to have had in identifying a candidate to take up the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. According to reports, Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt and Robert Buckland all turned down the role.


Whoever takes the job will be the 7th in the role since the Brexit vote in 2016 so at least they can take some comfort from knowing that they won’t be there for very long.


Of course, this kicked off a lot of commentary that this was evidence of UK ignorance and contempt for Northern Ireland. Karen Bradley, who was NI Secretary of State under Theresa May, famously said that before she was appointed, "I didn't understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland – people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa."


Sadly this is not untypical.


The orthodox view in London is that time invested in trying to move things along in Northern Ireland is time wasted. Major and Blair bucked the trend on this one with spectacular results.


Last week, I met with Conor Burns MP, a junior Minister for Northern Ireland.


To his credit he came to my assistance as I was struggling to persuade the DUP to send delegates to a conference I was organising in Brussels (more on this next week). The other parties in Northern Ireland had already accepted invitations; Sinn Fein, SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Ulster Unionists. The DUP agreed after his intervention.


I encouraged him to also think about persuading the new PM to take Ireland seriously and to pay an early visit which he undertook to do.


Boris visited Ireland immediately after visiting Germany and France. Theresa May’s visit to Enda Kenny was her 15th.


The normal first visit is to Germany and France, in that order and on the same trip. Liz Truss claimed that “the jury is out” when asked whether Emmanuel Macron was a friend or foe of the UK. This eccentric view might mean she will get a better welcome in Ireland if she is looking for somewhere to go.


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