OPINION - Suella Braverman sacked, David Cameron back (no, really) in cabinet reshuffle

OPINION - Suella Braverman sacked, David Cameron back (no, really) in cabinet reshuffle

May 2016 was when it first dawned on me that Leave might actually win. A friend had texted in a state of confusion. They thought that David Cameron wanted to leave the EU, so couldn't understand why he was suddenly warning that Brexit would put peace at risk. The message concluded, "Did I miss something?"

What concerned me wasn't the question itself, which was easy enough to understand. Cameron had been a fairly run-of-the-mill Tory Eurosceptic until he finalised his EU renegotiation and concluded he needed to win the referendum to stay in office. It was that my friend had studied politics at university. If they were unsure, what chance did anyone else have?

A cabinet reshuffle is currently underway but unless Pitt the Younger is dug up and appointed chancellor, the main story of the day is not that Suella Braverman has been sacked but that Cameron is the new foreign secretary. Why? Well, that's a little bit more difficult to explain.

Let's begin with the former. Braverman effectively issued a challenge to Rishi Sunak's authority, both by her interventions over the last few weeks (on homelessness and in particular pro-Palestinian protestors), culminating in an article for The Times on which Number 10 did not sign off.

The Cameron appointment is something of a surprise. The former prime minister had previously declined the opportunity to chair COP26 in Glasgow, suggesting it should go to a cabinet minister and that he had too many commitments he wished to focus on such as his work as President of Alzheimer's Research UK.

In terms of future-proofing, moving James Cleverly to the Home Office means Sunak will still have a Brexiteer in post, but one less likely to demand that Britain leaves the European Convention on Human Rights, should the Supreme Court rule on Wednesday that the Rwanda scheme is unlawful.

Then there is the party management perspective. Cameron, you may recall, led the Remain campaign. When his side lost the referendum, he resigned. He has never recanted his views on Brexit. This makes him a deeply divisive figure within the Conservative Party. His appointment also suggests that the prime minister didn't think he could find a decent foreign secretary from within the ranks of his 350 MPs.

That Cameron's fairly bland views on Europe instantly make him a suspect figure speaks to how different the party is today from the one he left seven and a half years ago. Cameron's position diverges from the present Tory orthodoxy not only on the EU but China, international aid, HS2 and immigration. I mean, only a month ago he accused Sunak of acting against the long-term interests of the country.

Then there is his post-prime ministerial activities. Questions will inevitably be raised over any ties with foreign governments, his association with the Greensill scandal (Cameron was cleared of breaking lobbying rules) and other income streams that didn't have to be declared once he quit the Commons.

What of the broad brush stuff? In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in early October, Sunak railed against the failed consensus of the last 30 years. Cameron was either prime minister or leader of the opposition for more than one-third of that time! Has the whole 'change candidate' thing been junked?

Ultimately, what intrigues me most about this appointment is that Sunak is far closer politically to his former home secretary than the former prime minister. Sunak may exude Cameroonian vibes, and he is economically dry, but on a whole range of social issues, he is far to the right of Cameron who, don't forget, overcame widespread opposition from within his own party to pass same-sex marriage.

It would be unfair to compare Cameron's appointment as foreign secretary with, say, Ted Heath bringing back John Profumo as minister for pillow talk. Rather, it suggests that Sunak is simply pulling every lever at his disposal to see if anything still works.

In the comment pages, Paul Beckett, assistant editor at the Wall Street Journal, demands the release of Evan Gershkovich, whose wrongful imprisonment in Russia he says should concern us all. Dylan Jones calls New York a city that still glitters, but just like London, it is divided. While Ethan Croft reflects on not learning to ride a bike until he was 25 and the mockery that ensued.

Finally, check out ES Magazine's Food and Drink Editor Joanna Taylor on the capital's French restaurant revival. I hadn't realised they'd gone away.

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