In a stunning turn, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has made a comeback, re-entering the political stage as the newly appointed Foreign Secretary in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle. The unexpected move has left many, including government MPs, taken aback, marking a plot twist in Britain’s political narrative.
Cameron, 57, who resigned from his role as prime minister and member of parliament in 2016, had maintained a low profile since leaving politics, primarily working in the private sector. His return to a ministerial position is an unforeseen development, especially considering he was not an actively serving Member of Parliament. This adds an extra layer of intrigue to his comeback.
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The monarch, King Charles, played a crucial role in Cameron’s resurgence by nominating him to the House of Lords, the appointed upper house of the UK Parliament. This paved the way for Cameron’s unexpected appointment as Foreign Secretary, defying conventional political expectations.
A Twist in the Tale
The move of inviting former Prime Minister David Cameron to rejoin the political arena comes into action merely six weeks after Sunak’s ambitious speech, “it’s time for change”.
However, Sunak and Cameron’s political history reveals differences, particularly regarding major decisions. Last month, when Sunak scaled back the high-speed rail project HS2, Cameron criticized the move, suggesting it wasted a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.” Their conflicting perspectives also extend to Brexit, with Sunak proudly declaring himself a Brexiteer, while Cameron, despite triggering the referendum, campaigned against leaving the EU.
As Cameron assumes the role of foreign secretary, he faces the challenge of navigating the transformed landscape of UK-China relations. The previously hailed “golden era” has faded, replaced by diplomatic expulsions, spy arrests, and internal calls to brand China a “threat.” Cameron is now tasked with delicately navigating this transformed landscape, seeking to stabilize ties while aligning with the more assertive stance favored by a significant number of Members of Parliament.
Cameron’s post-prime ministerial career as a political lobbyist for Greensill Capital adds another layer of complexity. Despite a significant controversy involving text messages to ministers lobbying for financial support, Sunak takes the risk of incorporating Cameron’s experience into his cabinet.
Who is David Cameron?
David Cameron, long associated with the center of the Conservative Party, played a significant role in British politics as the party leader from 2005 to 2016 and as prime minister from 2010 to 2016. Remarkably, he became the youngest person to hold the office since 1812, marking a notable chapter in UK political history.
However, Cameron’s tenure came to an abrupt and controversial end when he resigned in disgrace after calling and losing the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union. This event triggered a tumultuous period in British politics, characterized by a shift in the Conservative Party towards the populist right.
Post-resignation, Cameron found himself embroiled in the “Greensill scandal.” Reports revealed that he had lobbied Rishi Sunak, the then chancellor of the exchequer, to grant pandemic-related government support to the struggling financial services company Greensill Capital in 2021. Despite the controversy, three separate inquiries determined that Cameron had not violated any lobbying rules or acted unlawfully.
Beyond the borders of the UK, Cameron’s post-political endeavors have expanded, and he has become associated with Chinese interests in the Indo-Pacific. Notably, he championed the controversial multi-billion-dollar Colombo Port City project in Sri Lanka, a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The reaction of political world on Cameron’s re-entry
The surprise appointment of David Cameron as the UK’s new foreign minister has triggered a range of reactions across the European Union. While eyebrows were raised across the EU at the return of the man who triggered the Brexit referendum, there is a general sentiment that it signifies a continued thawing of relations rather than a return to the turbulent times of Brexit debates.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte welcomed Cameron back with a post on X (formerly Twitter), expressing a sentiment echoed by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland who offered online congratulations. The appointment, viewed by some as a consolidation of pragmatism over ideology in EU-UK relations, is seen as a step towards normalization.
An EU diplomat remarked that the fact that the new foreign minister is not an ardent Brexiteer signals a positive shift. “Regardless of past mistakes, this might be a good thing,” the diplomat told reporters.
However, not everyone shares this optimism. Katarina Barley, the vice president of the European Parliament and a German-British dual national, criticized Rishi Sunak’s decision. Barley accused Sunak of avoiding urgently needed new elections and bringing back a failed ex-prime minister into the government, stating that the appointment underscores the turbulence within the Conservative party. She found it particularly ironic that Sunak chose the man who initiated the chaos of Brexit to lend an air of seriousness to his government.
Suella Braverman: Leaving a polarizing legacy
A committed Brexiteer, Braverman gained notoriety for her proposal to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a plan that faced legal challenges and was ultimately ruled unlawful by multiple courts. Despite the controversies, she considered serving as home secretary the “greatest privilege” of her life.
Braverman’s political journey took a hit in September 2022 when she resigned during Liz Truss’s short premiership after sending official documents from her personal email address. Nevertheless, her political trajectory swiftly shifted when Chancellor Rishi Sunak reappointed her a mere six days later.
Acknowledged as a frontrunner for party leadership within the right-wing factions of the Conservative Party, Braverman’s time in office was characterized by outspoken views on immigration, including a particularly provocative assertion where she characterized homelessness as a “lifestyle choice.”
Why Braverman removed?
Braverman’s controversial tenure as Home Secretary, characterized by populist messaging and a hardline stance on asylum-seekers, culminated in her dismissal amid deepening discord with law enforcement. Her dismissal sets the stage for a potential power struggle within the ruling party, adding a layer of instability to British politics.
Despite Sunak’s recent confidence in Braverman, her removal opens the door to speculation about a leadership challenge. While such a move carries risks for a party that has seen frequent changes in leadership, growing discontent within party ranks may drive calls for a new direction.
Alternatively, Braverman might be considering a leadership bid after the upcoming general election, anticipated late next year. In this scenario, she would position herself as a radical alternative to Sunak, potentially complicating the Prime Minister’s electoral campaign in the new year.
Braverman’s role as a fervent culture warrior, critiquing “woke” culture, transgender rights, and climate protesters, has garnered attention and criticism alike. Her headline-grabbing remarks have provided ammunition to government critics, with opposition leader Keir Starmer emphasizing the importance of a serious Home Secretary for a serious government.