Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Theresa may be green but there’s a chance for her to shine

Getting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) portfolio represents promotion for Owen Paterson.

There is a suspicion that removing him from the NIO and replacing him with a Cabinet newcomer, who, though able, has no track record, may mark a downgrading of Northern Ireland. Theresa Villiers is even being portrayed as a token woman.

That is what people will say, but low expectations could be an opportunity for Theresa Villiers to prove them wrong.

Corporation tax will be an early challenge and, if the easy option of letting it slip is taken, then years of effort by Mr Paterson, publicly encouraged by David Cameron, will be wasted.

As fellow Right-wingers in the Cabinet, they would both show their clout if they got together to push this through at a price which Sammy Wilson will bite on. If it is fumbled, the local parties will place the blame squarely on her.

Mr Paterson’s consultation paper on the future of Stormont presents a ready-made agenda. Though she will be advised to butt out by the DUP and Sinn Fein, she would be advised to push it between now and October 23, when it closes.

The main topics of ending double-jobbing by MLAs, reducing the size of the Assembly and charting a way out of mandatory coalition are all ones in which there is public interest — and opportunities for her to shine.

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