Conservative MPs who could become Northern Ireland Secretary under new Prime Minister

Belfast Tory party mural. Pic Presseye.
Liz Truss is to become the new prime minister after winning the Conservative leadership race. Credit: Presseye

Liz Truss is set to be given the keys to Number 10 and replace Boris Johnson as prime minister after winning the Conservative party leadership contest.

She was announced as the new party leader on Monday by chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

Truss, in a change to tradition, will travel to Balmoral to meet the Queen to be sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday.

With the leadership race between Truss and Sunak appearing to be a foregone conclusion after voting closed on Friday, attention turned to the make-up of the new cabinet.

And speculation has been mounting over who could take up the Northern Ireland Secretary post.

A number of names have been in the mix, with reports of a number of people approached for the job turning it down.

  • Shailesh Vara

Shailesh Vara Credit: PA Images

Shailesh Vara is currently the Northern Ireland Secretary, having been appointed to the position in July.

Mr Vara had previously served in the Northern Ireland Office in 2018 however the Ugandan-born politician resigned from the post in protest of then-Prime Minister Theresa May's planned Brexit deal.

Prior to the referendum in June 2016, Mr Vara was opposed to leaving the European Union.

  • Conor Burns

Conor Burns Credit: PA Images

Conor Burns has served as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office since September 2021.

He has been MP for Bournemouth West since 2010.

He previously resigned from his role as Minister of State for International Trade after a watchdog concluded he had attempted to "intimidate a member of the public" by using his privileged position. The Commons Committee on Standards called for his suspension from parliament for seven days.

Mr Burns said he accepted the sanction "unreservedly", and went on to spend more than a year on the back benches.

Born in Belfast before moving to Hertfordshire as a child, Mr Burns is the only contender from Northern Ireland. He is also openly gay and has been described as a strong Eurosceptic.

  • Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid Credit: PA Images

Mr Javid has held ministerial roles in housing, business and culture before becoming Home Secretary from 2018 until 2019 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2019 to 2020.

The Bromsgrove MP resigned from his role as Health Secretary after losing confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leading a wave of more than 50 MPs resigning from Government positions.

Prior to life in politics, he had a career in business and finance, leaving Deutsche Bank as a Senior Managing Director in 2009 before being elected in 2010.

  • Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt. Credit: PA Images

Penny Mordaunt has been MP for Portsmouth North since 2010.

The 49-year-old made waves in 2019 as the UK’s first female defence secretary before being fired by Mr Johnson after just three months when he became prime minister.

Ms Mordaunt previously served in David Cameron's government as a Parliamentary under-secretary and as international development secretary under Mrs May.

A member of the Royal Navy Reserves, she also played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

While she has been mentioned as a possible new NI Secretary, she has reportedly turned it down.

  • Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith. Credit: PA Images

Iain Duncan Smith, who was the leader of the party between 2001 and 2003, has also been rumoured to be in the running for the Northern Ireland job.

As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Sir Iain was the architect of the Government’s controversial Universal Credit welfare reforms.

He was an ardent Brexiteer and, as a backbencher, was a leading light in the Tory European Research Group (ERG) which proved to be such a thorn in the side of Theresa May.

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