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Tony Lloyd 'surprised' at shadow Northern Ireland job but excited over challenge

By Suzanne Breen

New Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tony Lloyd, has said he was surprised to be appointed, but is looking forward to what will be "a great challenge".

The Rochdale MP replaces Owen Smith who was sacked by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Friday after calling for a second Brexit referendum.

A former chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr Lloyd is on the left of the party although he is not regarded as a Corbynite.

Speaking after his appointment, he told Rochdale Online: "It's come as a surprise. It will be a great challenge because we know Northern Ireland matters enormously. There have been issues with the border between the north and the Republic of Ireland. For me it will be a challenge but a real pleasure to work in something so clearly in the national interest of ours.

"We are very close to Northern Ireland here in the north west of England and, post-Brexit, it is going to be really important for the economy of Northern Ireland, the north west and the Republic to work together well. I'm very much looking forward it."

Mr Lloyd was first elected to Parliament in 1983. He was seen as a critic of Tony Blair and voted against the Iraq War. He resigned as an MP to become Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012.

He lost the race to be selected as Labour's Greater Manchester mayoral candidate and returned to the House of Commons last year.

He was Shadow Housing Secretary before his new appointment.

Mr Lloyd denied the claim by Lord Peter Hain that Mr Smith's sacking was a "terrible Stalinist purge".

When asked why there shouldn't be a second Brexit referendum, he replied: "It's simply not where the country's at."

He added: "The job of the opposition is to be saying very clearly our expectation is that the deal that comes back from Brussels is one that's in the interest of the people of the UK, whichever part of the UK. It most certainly does involve no hard border in Ireland."

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