Bradley mentioned North just twice in Commons since 2010

New Northern Ireland secretary surprised some with handling of Murdoch Sky bid

New Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley won the seat of Staffordshire Moorlands from Labour for the Conservatives in 2010. Photograph: EPA

New Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley won the seat of Staffordshire Moorlands from Labour for the Conservatives in 2010. Photograph: EPA


In her choice of Karen Bradley as Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa May has replaced one of her former junior ministers at the home office with another.

Like James Brokenshire, who resigned on Monday for health reasons, Ms Bradley worked closely with Ms May as minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime from 2014 until 2016, when she became culture secretary.

Ms Bradley has shown little interest in Northern Ireland since becoming an MP in 2010, mentioning it just twice in the House of Commons. The first was when she was speaking about organised crime and the second to inform the House that the home office had sold a Toyota Prius there for £3,073.

Born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1970, Bradley moved to Buxton in Derbyshire when her family took over a hotel there and she went to the local comprehensive school. After a degree in Mathematics from Imperial College London, she became a chartered accountant and tax adviser, working for Deloitte and KPMG.

Staffordshire Moorlands

She joined the Conservatives and in 2010 won the seat of Staffordshire Moorlands from Labour, becoming a government whip three years later and a junior minister in 2014.

If Northern Ireland’s politicians think her lack of experience means Ms Bradley will be a soft touch, however, they might consider how she has confounded low expectations in the past. When she was named culture secretary after Ms May became prime minister in 2016, the cultural and sports worlds initially rejoiced.

That was because they thought the post had gone to Conservative peer Karren Brady, the former managing director of Birmingham City FC and sidekick to Alan Sugar on The Apprentice. Bradley made little impression at first, either on the arts world or on the other parts of her brief covering “digital, culture, media and sport”.

In November 2016, she drew criticism for vetoing the appointment of a black female candidate as a non-executive director of Channel 4, while confirming the appointment of the other four candidates, who were white men and the decision was reversed the following year.

Murdoch bid

When Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which owns 39 per cent of Sky, bid for the remaining 61 per cent, Ms Bradley was widely expected to offer little resistance. Instead, she referred the bid to the competition authority, ignoring the advice of the broadcasting regulator, which was relaxed about the Murdoch bid.

Mr Murdoch’s recent sale of Fox to Disney may have made the decision academic, but in risking the retribution of the most powerful media figure in Britain, Ms Bradley showed a grit that could prove useful in her new post.