The PM ousted his home secretary after days of pressure over her claim of police bias in favour of pro-Palestinian protesters, her attack on “hate marches” and description of homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”.
But Mr Sunak has been told to “prepare for war” – warned that the move could provoke a full-scale revolt by more than 50 of her right-wing supporters keen for her to succeed Mr Sunak as party leader.
Ms Braverman’s spoke out against the decision, with ex-business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg saying he had made a “mistake”.
The former business secretary said Ms Braverman “understands what the country thinks about migration” and was “committed to delivering something that the country thinks is important”.
“From the point of view of the Conservatives winning the next election, today is a mistake because Suella understood what the British voter thought and was trying to do something about it,” he told GB News.
Sir Jacob added that Lord Cameron is a “highly intelligent, capable individual”, but said his return to the top of the Tory party could push some voters to Reform, the successor to the Brexit Party.
Mr Sunak faced weeks of warnings that sacking Ms Braverman – a key figure on the right of the party – would spark a rebellion of backbench MPs.
The chair of Tory members’ group the Conservative Democratic Organisation warned it would be a “kamikaze move” and said Mr Sunak “may as well put in 54 no-confidence letters himself”.
David Campbell Bannerman said on Monday that Conservative MPs were organising behind the scenes and “the numbers are now there” for a no confidence vote in Mr Sunak.
If 54 backbench Tories submit letters of no confidence to the 1922 committee, Mr Sunak would face a confidence vote in his leadership. But moderate Tory MPs dismissed the claims, and suggested the number of MPs who back Ms Braverman was much lower.
Amid the almost immediate backlash to Mr Sunak’s reshuffle, Andrea Jenkyns said Ms Braverman had been “sacked for speaking the truth”.
“I support Suella Braverman … sacked for speaking the truth. Bad call by Rishi caving in to the left,” the right-winger said on X, formerly Twitter.
Former Tory MP Neil Parish, who was forced to quit after watching pornography in the House of Commons, said Mr Sunak should “prepare for war” over the sacking.
He told GB News: “Rishi Sunak better prepare for war I think because of course she is very much, Suella, the standard bearer of the right of the party.”
However, senior Tory MP Stephen Hammond has said the right-wingers angry about Ms Braverman’s sacking don’t have the numbers to oust Mr Sunak, despite claims more than 50 are ready to send no-confidence letters in the PM.
“All too often the right has shown itself to be well organised and noisy so that the impact is somewhat larger than the reality of their numbers,” Mr Hammond – who said the sacking of Ms Braverman was “completely correct” - told The Independent.
“There may be lots of noise again. However, the PM has chosen to make this a more centrist and centre-right government which will guarantee him more support amongst colleagues.”
A centrist Tory MP said a leadership challenge by Ms Braverman and her backers is possible but unlikely as it would destroy the party.
“It depends what they care about more, revenge or winning the next election,” the MP told The Independent.
They added: “The appetite for another vote of no confidence is virtually non-existent and basically everybody agrees that if we do that again we might as well dissolve the party as it will be 100 years before we are taken seriously again.”
And a senior Tory MP told The Independent said the idea 54 Tory MPs would send a no-confidence vote as “nonsense” – saying Braverman had “nothing like” 54 backers. They said the “vast majority” of Tory MPs were against any change of leadership.
One right-wing Tory Philip Davies MP – a strong Braverman supporter and senior figure in the Common Sense Group, run by her mentor John Hayes MP – played down the idea of a confidence vote or push against Mr Sunak.
“It’s very sad as I agree with Suella on virtually everything, but I don’t think she left him [Mr Sunak] with much choice,” Mr Davies told The Independent.
Senior Tory Tobias Ellwood has welcomed the sacking of Ms Braverman and appointment of Mr Cameron. Ending Ms Braverman’s appeals to right-wing members offered a chance to article a “centre-right vision that looks beyond our party base,” and he told The Independent.
John Stevenson, leader of the Northern Research Group, told The Independent that Mr Sunak was right to sack her. “The way she was conducting herself was not right for a home secretary.”
Mr Cameron’s appointment could shore up Tory support in the so-called blue wall of safe southern Conservative seats, where controversial outbursts from Ms Braverman were seen to be costing the party support.
But it risks sparking a rift with Brexiteers in the party after he campaigned to remain in the EU, and he is likely to face opposition over his reported lobbying for Chinese interests in the Indo-Pacific.
It also raises questions about Mr Sunak’s bid to paint himself as the candidate of change ahead of a general election expected next year.
The PM used his Tory conference speech to condemn 30 years of failed “status quo” politics, in which Mr Cameron played a significant role.
Labour pointed to Mr Sunak’s claims, mocking him for reappointing the former PM. Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said: “A few weeks ago, Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of a failed status quo, now he’s bringing him back as his life raft.
“This puts to bed the prime minister’s laughable claim to offer change from 13 years of Tory failure.”