After the election, when discussions turned to Boris Johnson's inevitable cabinet reshuffle, most pundits were certain Julian Smith was destined for the door. The Northern Ireland secretary had made himself unpopular with No. 10 following several cabinet table outburst - the most notable being over Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament.
So when it was announced that power-sharing would resume at Stormont, some speculated that Smith may have earnt himself a reprieve. Boris Johnson all but confirmed these suspicions when he singled out the Northern Ireland secretary for praise during an interview with BBC Breakfast. He told Dan Walker:
“'I do believe in the strength of our cabinet. They're a fantastically able bunch of people. I want them to be leading, so for instance the secrerary of state for Northern Ireland did a very good job in helping to get Stormont up and running yesterday.'
Given Dominic Cummings wants to start rewarding effective operators rather than confident bluffers, it seems Smith might well be stuck at the famously gruelling Northern Ireland office for the long haul.