One of the most tumultuous periods in modern British political history moved to a new level on Wednesday with the arrival of the UK’s second female prime minister in Downing Street.
Theresa May quickly announced her top cabinet positions, and showed considerable steel in the process.
George Osborne was axed as chancellor after reportedly not being offered a job (the exact circumstances of his departure remained unclear last night). This is a brutal end for a man long considered to be the most likely successor to David Cameron. As such, he had huge power and influence at the top of government, but is now consigned to the backbenches.
Mrs May seemed to be sending a clear signal that she was not going to backtrack in any way from the nation’s vote for Brexit, even though she had campaigned for Remain.
Some of her most important cabinet positions were given to Tories who had campaigned for the UK to quit the EU, most notably Boris Johnson, who becomes foreign secretary. David Davis will be the minister in charge of Brexit, while Dr Liam Fox is the man in charge of international trade.
These appointments are politically astute not merely because they assauge the supporters of Brexit, who felt that one of their own advocates should get the top job, but because it shifts most of the responsibility to them to achieve what they had insisted during the referendum campaign was possible – a bright future for the UK outside of the EU.
But crucially for Northern Ireland, Mrs May also mentioned us in her pledge to be a unionist. These were reassuring words at this time of anxiety for supporters of the Union, with nationalists in the Province and in Scotland pushing for separatist referendums.
Mrs May showed not only her tough side, but her compassionate one, when she spoke eloquently about those who have been left behind in modern Britain.
Within hours of arriving in Downing Street, the prime minister had already left a mark.