- The shock return of the former Prime Minister divides the party
- Braverman’s exit comes after her criticism of the London police
- Prime Minister Sunak is trying to appease traditional supporters
- Braverman criticized the police over pro-Palestinian protests
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reinstated former leader David Cameron as foreign secretary on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle that followed the sacking of Home Secretary Suella Braverman after her criticism of police threatened his authority.
It is the latest reset for the Prime Minister, whose party is trailing Labor badly ahead of elections expected next year. Cameron’s return suggests Sunak wants to bring in more centrist and experienced hands rather than appease the right of his party, which backed Braverman.
It also raises a divisive debate over Brexit: Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which Cameron sparked by holding a referendum in 2016 despite his support for remaining in the bloc.
Under criticism from opposition lawmakers and members of the ruling Conservative Party for Braverman’s ouster, Sunak appeared to have tabled a long-planned cabinet reshuffle to bring in allies and sack ministers he felt were not doing their job.
His hand was pressed when the controversial Braverman challenged him last week in an unauthorized article accusing police of a “double standard” at protests, suggesting they were tough on right-wing protesters, but lenient on pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
The opposition Labor Party said tensions rose between a pro-Palestinian demonstration and a far-right counter-protest on Saturday, when nearly 150 people were arrested.
While Cameron’s dismissal was not a surprise, it was Cameron’s appointment that sent shockwaves through the Conservative Party, which was welcomed by more centrist lawmakers but loathed by some on the right who described it as the ultimate “Brexit capitulation”.
Cameron said he was delighted to take on his new role because, in a time of global change, “it has rarely been more important for this country to stand alongside our allies, strengthen our partnerships and make sure our voice is heard.”
“While I may disagree with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable Prime Minister, demonstrating exemplary leadership at a difficult time,” he wrote on Twitter, previously known as X.
The return of Brexit
Lawmakers from the party’s centrist wing said Cameron’s appointment would bring international experience and send a broader message to the country.
“It’s a nod to the Tory blue wall and moderate voters, we’re not going to the right,” one Conservative lawmaker said, using a phrase used to describe traditionally Conservative-supporting areas in southern England.
Some lawmakers feared Braverman was intent on reshaping the Conservative Party as the “bad party,” a nickname former Prime Minister Theresa May used in 2002 to try to persuade the party to shed its reputation for not caring.
But Cameron’s return exacerbated the anger felt by some on the party’s right after her dismissal. They said Braverman’s position on how police should handle protests was correct, and they predicted she would become a vocal force among those who do not hold ministerial positions in Parliament.
Some Brexiteers also said the fact that Cameron campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU after calling a referendum on membership in 2016 meant the so-called “Remain” wing of the party had taken over.
James Cleverly, the former Foreign Secretary, was appointed to replace Braverman. He is seen as a safe person and was quick to say that his new role is to “keep people safe in this country.”
With Braverman sidelined, her attention may be focused on preparing for a possible future leadership race if, as opinion polls indicate, the Conservatives lose the election expected next year.
Labor has consistently led by around 20 points in opinion polls, and Sunak has failed to close that gap.
He tried to relaunch himself as a representative of “change” at his party conference last month, when his message was overshadowed by a poorly publicized decision to cancel part of the country’s largest railway project.
Labor has described Sunak as weak since Braverman’s article was published on Wednesday. Now, opposition lawmakers have said his decision to appoint Cameron was an act of desperation.
MP Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said: “A few weeks ago, Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of the failed status quo, and now he’s bringing it back as a lifeboat.
He added: “This invalidates the Prime Minister’s laughable claim that he is offering change after 13 years of Conservative Party failure.”
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Andrew MacAskill, Alistair Smout, Sachin Ravikumar, Kylie MacLellan and Sarah Young – Prepared by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Kate Holton and Andrew Cawthorn
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