David Cameron: Former prime minister returns as foreign secretary, but Rishi Sunak faces backlash from opposition and own Tory party
Suella Braverman was dramatically sacked as home secretary in a chaotic reshuffle as Rishi Sunak elevated Lord Cameron back into UK Government ranks as foreign secretary, giving the former prime minister a seat in the Lords.
As angry as opposition parties were over the appointment of Lord Cameron, The Scotsman was told the mood among some Tory MPs was ever worse, with those on the right livid that Mr Sunak had ousted Ms Braverman and appointed a foreign secretary who was not even an MP.
Lord Cameron’s appointment emerged as a massive shock in Westminster, not just because of the return of a former prime minister to government – the first since Alec Douglas-Home in the 1970s – but also because of his views on China.
During the Cameron administration, there was a “golden era” of UK-China co-operation – something Mr Sunak described as “naive” last year following growing tensions with Beijing.
Lord Cameron has also been critical of Mr Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, while the Prime Minister used his Tory conference speech to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessors.
But following his surprise appointment, Lord Cameron made it clear he was backing Mr Sunak and would work with him to help the Tories win the general election, which is expected next year.
The new foreign secretary said: “On the whole, as an ex-prime minister, I’ve tried to keep quiet about politics, stay out of politics. It’s hard enough being prime minister without having your predecessors endlessly giving a running commentary.
“But, of course, I have disagreed with some individual decisions, but politics is a team enterprise. I have decided to join this team because I believe Rishi Sunak is a good Prime Minister, doing a difficult job at a hard time.
“I want to support him, I’m a member of the team. I accept the Cabinet collective responsibility that comes with that. I know it’s not usual for a prime minister to come back in this way, but I believe in public service.
“The Prime Minister asked me to do this job and it’s a time where we have some daunting challenges as a country – the conflict in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine.
“Of course, I hope that six years as prime minister, 11 years leading the Conservative Party, gives me some useful experience and contacts and relationships and knowledge that I can help the Prime Minister to make sure we build our alliances, we build partnerships with our friends, we deter our enemies and we keep our country strong.
“That’s why I’m doing the job and I’m delighted to accept.”
In other Cabinet changes, James Cleverly was shifted from the Foreign Office to replace Ms Braverman as home secretary.
Therese Coffey, who was deputy prime minister under Liz Truss, was replaced as environment secretary by Steve Barclay, with Victoria Atkins subsequently promoted into the vacant health portfolio. Laura Trott was elevated into the role of Treasury Chief Secretary.
Handed a life peerage for the role, Lord Cameron will not draw an attendance salary at the House of Lords while foreign secretary. He will instead be paid a £104,360 salary for filling the role, but will no longer claim the allowance available to all former prime ministers.
Defending the appointment, Downing Street insisted the selection did not show a lack of talent in the Conservative party.
Number 10 said the appointment of Lord Cameron was a “huge advantage” during a time of “significant global instability”.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary told reporters: “Obviously at a time of significant global instability, it’s a huge advantage to have someone that brings a huge amount of experience to that role and is already an established figure on the world stage.
“The other thing I would say is if you look across the board at the appointments today, there is lots of talent coming through the ranks.”
The ousting of Ms Braverman followed her inflammatory comments suggesting homelessness was sometimes a “lifestyle choice” and an unauthorised newspaper article criticising the way police had handled pro-Palestinian “mobs”. In a sign of how badly relations have broken down between the Prime Minister and Ms Braverman, there was no traditional exchange of letters, with Downing Street instead saying the decision was about having a “strong united team”, adding “clearly there was an issue around language”.
Ominously for the Prime Minister, Ms Braverman said she will have “more to say in due course” about her exit.
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg was one of many MPs to take issue with the reshuffle, saying Ms Braverman was more “attuned to voters’ concerns” than Mr Sunak, while warning the appointment of Lord Cameron could see the party lose votes.
He told GB News: “David Cameron got the Brexit issue wrong in terms of the Conservative Party and indeed the country at large who voted to leave, but he did give us the choice to have the vote. Without him we wouldn't have had that referendum.
"He is a highly intelligent, capable individual. But will this potentially push some people to Reform is a question for the pollsters.”
A group of disgruntled Tory MPs are now mobilising to push the party further to the right, while an AI-generated picture of Ms Braverman in armour and the British flag was doing the rounds on Conservative WhatsApp groups on Monday night.
On Lord Cameron, one MP said: "He's completely gutless. He's an unelected foreign secretary, appointed by an unelected Prime Minister."
Former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns said Ms Braverman was “sacked for speaking the truth” and it was a “bad call by Rishi caving in to the left”.
Former Tory treasurer Lord Cruddas also criticised Mr Sunak’s actions, saying: “The coup is complete, remain has won and democracy has lost.”
Another told The Scotsman Lord Cameron was “not popular with some factions, but can help us govern and win back voters in the south”.
Former minister Tobias Ellwood was more upbeat, saying the Prime Minister had finally made the right decision in firing Ms Braverman.
He said: "I think it was actually overdue and I'm pleased that Rishi Sunak is starting to craft a Cabinet that's going to be able to offer clarity as to what we stand for the next general election, not tied back with any caucuses or or tribal alliances and so forth, clarity as to where we go."
Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, hammered the Prime Minister over the decision, saying: “A few weeks ago, Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of a failed status quo, now he’s bringing him back as his life raft.
“This puts to bed the Prime Minister's laughable claim to offer change from 13 years of Tory failure.”
Lib Dems were also furious, with foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran saying the appointment should be blocked.
They said: "Bringing back a scandal-hit, unelected former prime minister who has been criticising Sunak's Government at every turn has the stench of desperation. There is not even the bottom of the barrel left for Sunak to scrape in the Conservative party.
“David Cameron was at the heart of the biggest lobbying scandal of recent times. Handing him a peerage makes a mockery of our honours system. Cameron’s peerage should be blocked given his shady past.”
SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black suggested the appointment showed how "tired" the Tory Government was.
She said: "People in Scotland will be appalled that the architect of 13 years of Tory austerity cuts, and the disastrous Brexit referendum, is back in government. David Cameron's damaging Tory policies slashed Scotland's budget, hammered the economy, pushed millions into poverty and cut vital public services. And his catastrophic error of judgement on Brexit is the biggest UK foreign policy disaster since the Iraq war – and has set the UK on a path to long-term decay and decline".
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