Who is Julian Smith?

The new Secretary of State for the North, Julian Smith, was returned as MP in the safe Tory constituency of Skipton and Ripon in North Yorkshire in the General Election that brought the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition to power in 2010.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 12:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 1:22 pm
Julian Smith.

The Stirling-born 47-year-old has made 700 spoken contributions in the House of Commons since then but has displayed little or no interest in Irish affairs, according to the Hansard record.

In December 2010 in a debate on the British economy in the midst of the banking crisis in the South, he said: "The Scottish Government used to be very keen on the economic growth achieved by Ireland. Will the Secretary of State [for Scotland, Michael Moore] assure me that, as well as taking measures to promote growth, he will ensure that the First Minister has fiscal responsibility at the top of his agenda?"

In March 2011 in a contribution on the competitiveness of local businesses, he said: "Northern Ireland, like North Yorkshire, is powered by small business. What message does the Secretary of State [for the North, Owen Paterson] think today’s sizzling Budget for growth will send to risk-takers in Northern Ireland and beyond?"

And in October 2013 he made a contribution on the work of the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in attempting to apprehend "one of the most active child pornographers in Ireland".

But that was it.

According to Hansard Mr. Smith has never mentioned Derry and never mentioned Belfast in his close to a decade as an MP for Skipton and Ripon.

Since November 2017 he has made just one spoken contribution in the British Parliament.

That can be explained, however, by his role from that date as British Government Chief Whip, which has prevented him from broadcasting his political positions on a range of matters.

The North Yorkship MP famously addressed the DUP conference in the La Mon Hotel in Belfast in November 2017 five months after the Conservative/DUP confidence and supply deal was signed.

Referring to the election of 2017 that precipitated that deal Mr. Smith told the DUP conference: "When the exit poll dropped on June 8 it was not clear what would happen.

"While we are distinct parties with distinct identities, as we've heard today, we all knew in our heart of hearts that we could not let Jeremy Corbyn get anywhere near Number 10 Downing Street.

"We just do not believe in that style of politics, focused on hate, focused on what divides us. Both parties, I believe, took a very deep decision to ensure that we had to stop it and we came together, as Nigel [Dodds] so eloquently said this morning, in the national interest."

Speaking back then Mr. Smith heaped praise on the ten DUP MPs.

"I've been so impressed by the calibre of the DUP members in Westminster led by Nigel Dodds. They are a credit to the DUP and a credit to Northern Ireland," he said.

According to an analysis by mySociety Mr. Smith's voting record has been typically Conservative over his nine years as an MP.

The e-democracy project shows that the new Secretary of State "consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits; almost always voted for reducing capital gains tax; almost always voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000; and generally voted against a banker’s bonus tax".

By contrast he voted in favour of consumer taxes, such as VAT, alcohol and air travel.

Mr. Smith "generally voted for equal gay rights" but "generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights" and "voted against allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life".

He also "consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas" and "voted against investigations into the Iraq war".