The Daily Telegraph
Cameron’s return sparks Brexiteer backlash
Reshuffle prompts MPS on the party’s Right to turn on Sunak after Braverman sacked
RISHI SUNAK brought David Cameron back into Cabinet yesterday in a reshuffle that triggered a new row with the Right wing of the Conservative Party.
Lord Cameron accepted a peerage to become the Foreign Secretary, ending almost seven years in the political wilderness after he quit as prime minister following the 2016 Brexit vote.
Downing Street figures pointed to Lord Cameron’s foreign policy experience and diplomatic contacts to explain the appointment, with wars raging in Ukraine and the Middle East.
But his credentials as a election winner were also a factor, according to government sources, and he is expected to play a prominent role in the Tories’ reelection campaign next year.
The wider than expected reshuffle also involved Suella Braverman being sacked as home secretary, days after she accused the police of bias in an unauthorised article about pro-palestinian marches.
Victoria Atkins was appointed Health Secretary, James Cleverly was made Home Secretary and Steve Barclay became Environment Secretary.
The sacking of Mrs Braverman led MPS on the Right of the party to turn on the Prime Minister. Dame Andrea Jenkyns, a prominent Boris Johnson supporter, sent a letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak to the 1922 Committee, the formal process for removing a leader.
She accused Mr Sunak of deciding to “purge the centre-right from his Cabinet” and said Mrs Braverman was the only person in the Cabinet with the courage “to speak the truth of the appalling state of our streets and a twotier policing system”.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Lord Frost said the reshuffle showed the Prime Minister was taking the country “back to the past”. Sir Jacob Rees-mogg, the former business secretary, said that Mrs Braverman “seems to have been sacked for following Conservative policy and principles too loudly”. Tomorrow’s Supreme Court decision on the Government’s Rwanda deportation scheme is also likely to increase tensions, as Mrs Braverman is expected to champion leaving the European Convention of Human Rights from the back benches. Mrs Braverman said she would have “more to say in due course” after she was sacked, with the dismissal delivered in a phone call rather than a face-to-face meeting.
Lord Cameron became the first former prime minister to return to a Cabinet role in more than 50 years. Of his decision to return, he said: “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
‘I hope that six years as prime minister, 11 years leading the party, gives me some useful experience’
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. And 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.”
The Telegraph can reveal that Mr Sunak offered Lord Cameron the job in a face-to-face meeting in the No11 flat last Tuesday evening, before Mrs Braverman’s article in The Times accusing the police of being biased was published. But the reshuffle was brought forward by the row about her comments, according to Downing Street insiders.
Lord Cameron said he had given up all other jobs to accept the new role.
After acknowledging that he had disagreed with the Prime Minister in the past, including over HS2, he said he would be bound be collective responsibility saying: “Politics is a team enterprise.” He also dismissed controversy over his previous work lobbying for the financial services company Greensill Capital, saying that was “in the past”.
Despite being the leader of the campaign to keep the UK in the EU, Lord Cameron said he now believed “we are making Brexit a success”.
Mr Cleverly was made the Home Secretary to create space for Lord Cameron. Mr Barclay was moved to become Environment Secretary, with Thérèse Coffey, an ally of Liz Truss, stepping down from that role. Ms Atkins replaced Mr Barclay as Health Secretary. Richard Holden, a Tory first elected in 2019, was elevated to the Cabinet by becoming chairman of the Conservative Party.
Esther Mcvey also returned to the front bench as a Cabinet Office minister, with a brief that reportedly includes being tougher on “wokeness”.
The appointment of Lord Cameron, seen as the architect of the Conservative Party’s modernisation drive which won them back power in 2010, combined with Mrs Braverman’s sacking, angered some on the Tory Right. Mrs Braverman ran for the Tory leadership last summer from a platform on the Right of the party and is widely tipped by Tory colleagues to make another bid for the leadership when it next becomes vacant.
Downing Street spokesmen dismissed the suggestion the reshuffle amounted to a marginalisation of the party’s Right, arguing that Mr Sunak had focused on delivery for the country when making his appointments.
THE offer that stunned Westminster was made face-to-face last Tuesday evening in the flat at No11.
Rishi Sunak and David Cameron were alone. The location had been picked for privacy: a gathering in his office on the ground floor of Downing Street would have set tongues wagging.
Mr Sunak had a proposal for his predecessor: a return to Cabinet as foreign secretary, plus an elevation to the Upper House as a peer of the realm.
That the news did not leak is testament to the Prime Minister’s small, close-knit inner circle of advisers and the seriousness with which the now Lord Cameron took the offer.
The timing is also telling for another reason. Suella Braverman’s provocative article in The Times accusing the police of bias was not published online until Wednesday evening. Mr Sunak’s gamble to bring the former prime minister back in from the cold was made before the Braverman article that broke the camel’s back.
Figures in both camps told how the coup was pulled off and offered insights into how the Prime Minister hopes to deploy his new Foreign Secretary.
Lord Cameron spoke to some of his own trusted confidantes after Mr Sunak had made the approach.
His instinct was to say yes, according to those who know him well. Friends of Lord Cameron talk about his belief in duty and he was being asked to serve.
“I just think he has a tremendous sense of public service,” said one ally who discussed the appointment with him. “He just felt ‘yes’.”
Mr Cameron has a diplomatic rolodex unrivalled by other Tory MPS who could have headed up the Foreign Office. He brings clout at a time of wars in Europe and the Middle East.
But there was also election calculus. Lord Cameron won two elections as Conservative leader, counting the 2010 vote, which resulted in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats but with the Tories in No10. One source familiar with the thinking said: “Obviously his job is diplomacy. The world is a very scary place and that is critical.
“But he will obviously be used in an election campaign. He is really good at this stuff. He’s won two of them.”
There has been speculation that Lord Hague, a former Tory leader himself who remains close to Mr Sunak, helped broker the deal. Lord Hague himself did not comment when approached.
It is certainly true that the Prime Minister speaks often to the man from whom he took over as MP for Richmond, a political mentor who frequently offers advice. But Downing Street insiders played down Lord Hague’s role. Mr Sunak personally alighted on the idea, multiple figures in the centre say.
While Mrs Braverman’s article, accusing the police of “playing favourites”, does not explain why Mr Sunak turned to Lord Cameron, it helps explain the timing.
Downing Street had long been planning a pre-election reshuffle to get a new Cabinet team in place before the election, with late November or early December pencilled in.
But the dramatic and public disintegration of Mr Sunak’s relationship with Mrs Braverman forced the point, meaning the reshuffle was brought forward to yesterday.
It was notable that Mrs Braverman was removed before Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on the legality of the Rwanda deportation scheme.
The former home secretary is on record as believing in the need to quit the European Convention of Human Rights, a position Mr Sunak is yet to endorse. Sacking Mrs Braverman meant there was no risk she could quit after the ruling and call on the UK to pull out of the ECHR. Downing Street insiders most feared a leak of the plan when the House of Lords Appointments Commission was approached to approve the peerage that created Cameron.
“That widened the circle of knowledge", said one No10 source. But the news was kept quiet and revealed only when Lord Cameron strode out of his
car and up Downing Street yesterday morning. “Now you know we can keep a secret!” declared another triumphant No 10 insider.
The move appears to have raised eyebrows among members of the public, with just 24 per cent saying Lord Cameron's appointment was a good decision in a snap Yougov poll, while 38 per cent said it was a bad decision, and an equal number said they did not know.
The inclusion of Lord Cameron in the reshuffle carries with it certain advantages for the Prime Minister.
First, he will be able to take much of the foreign policy load from Mr Sunak at a very challenging time, with the unresolved war in Ukraine and the recent Hamas attack on Israel.
Second, it means news coverage of the reshuffle is dominated by the return of the former prime minister rather than the sacking of Mrs Braverman.
Third, Mr Sunak will hope the presence of Lord Cameron in government will remind voters in the Blue Wall – many of whom are considering voting Lib Dem – of the “One Nation” period of Conservatism during the Coalition years. He will hope a Cameron-themed
Tory party will be more palatable to vot- ers in the shires than the “nasty party” evoked by Mrs Braverman.
And fourth, the Prime Minister will hope Remainer Lord Cameron will be able to foster better relations with Europe now that Brexit has been completed. The former prime minister fought hard for the UK to stay in the EU – a fight which gained him respect in Brussels and other European capitals.
Mr Sunak will hope he will be able to smooth over battered relations and help Britain and the EU work more closely together to the common benefit of both.
Lord Cameron also has experience of facing down Eurocrats, most famously the European Court of Human Rights over its insistence that prisoners should be given the right to vote.
However, there are downsides to the recall of the former prime minister to front-line politics. He will face the challenge of doing the job from the House of Lords – which he admitted was not a usual arrangement.
The last foreign secretary to run the department from the Upper House was Lord Carrington, under Margaret Thatcher, from 1979 to 1982. It means that MPS will not be able to challenge him in debate in the House of Commons, as statements in the Lower House will be read out by a minister of state, Andrew Mitchell.
One person who was not happy with the appointment was the Commons speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
He suggested the Foreign Office's work would not be “effectively” scrutinised and said he looked forward to “hearing the Government's proposals on how the Foreign Secretary will be properly accountable to this House”.
Downing Street insisted there was precedent for such a move, and said Lord Cameron could be questioned by MPS on select committees.
Another disadvantage facing Lord Cameron is the Greensill controversy.
The scandal erupted when it emerged he had privately lobbied ministers to attempt to try to secure access to an emergency coronavirus loan scheme for the failed Greensill Capital firm, where he took up a role in 2018.
Most damagingly in the eyes of many Conservatives, Lord Cameron carries the baggage of a close relationship with the Chinese Communist regime.
‘Another disadvantage facing Lord Cameron is the Greensill controversy’