In a surprising move, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak executed a cabinet reshuffle on Monday, appointing former leader David Cameron as the new foreign minister. This decision came after Sunak dismissed interior minister Suella Braverman, whose criticism of the police had jeopardised Sunak’s authority.
Sunak’s reshuffle indicates a strategic shift, opting for a more centrist and experienced figure like Cameron instead of aligning with the populist right, which had supported Braverman. The move also reignites discussions surrounding Brexit, as Cameron, who led the 2016 EU membership referendum, returns to the forefront.
The reshuffle was prompted by growing criticism of Braverman, allowing Sunak to bring in allies and remove underperforming ministers. Braverman’s unauthorised article accusing the police of “double standards” at protests, particularly contrasting treatment of right-wing demonstrators and pro-Palestinian marchers, led to her removal.
While Cameron’s appointment pleased centrist lawmakers, it faced opposition from some on the right, labelling it a “Brexit surrender.” Cameron acknowledged the unusual nature of his return, emphasizing his commitment to public service and willingness to support the government despite past disagreements with Sunak.
Cameron, who has been absent from politics since 2016, will enter the government through an appointment to the House of Lords. Sunak’s press secretary explained that the reshuffle aimed to create a “strong, united team focused on delivery” after the government faced criticism for unmet pledges.
The return of Cameron intensified dissatisfaction among some right-wing members, particularly those who supported Braverman. Lawmaker Andrea Jenkyns called for a vote of no confidence in Sunak, accusing him of orchestrating the removal of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and purging the centre-right from the cabinet.
Brexit supporters raised concerns about the influence of the “remain” wing and questioned Sunak’s decision to bring back Cameron, who faced criticism in 2021 for lobbying on behalf of Greensill during its collapse.
James Cleverly, the former foreign minister, replaced Braverman. His immediate challenge involves the Supreme Court ruling on whether asylum seekers can be deported to Rwanda. The outcome may intensify calls to exit the European Convention on Human Rights.
With Braverman sidelined, attention turns to her potential future leadership bid if the Conservatives face defeat in the expected upcoming election. Labour maintains a consistent lead in polls, and Sunak’s attempts to rebrand as a force for change have faced setbacks, including a controversial rail project cancellation.
Opposition lawmakers, branding Sunak as weak since Braverman’s criticism of the police, now view the appointment of Cameron as an act of desperation. Labour’s Pat McFadden stated, “This puts to bed the prime minister’s laughable claim to offer a change from 13 years of Tory failure.”