Britain’s beleaguered Prime Minister Rishi Sunak carried out a dramatic reshuffle to his Cabinet on Monday, firing his divisive home secretary and bringing back former premier David Cameron to the heart of government after a seven-year absence from politics.
The hardline Home Secretary Suella Braverman was sacked early on Monday morning, after making inflammatory comments about the policing of pro-Palestinian protests in central London over the weekend. Her tenure had wrought with scandals and divisive remarks, which had long caused fractures in Sunak’s government.
Sunak then announced he was bringing Cameron back to frontline politics as Foreign Secretary, in a stunning move that has few parallels in recent British political history.
Cameron served as prime minister from 2010 to 2016, resigning after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that he had called.
His premiership set the course of 13 years of Conservative rule, but the self-inflicted chaos of the Brexit referendum and its aftermath threw his party into years of instability from which it is still struggling to emerge.
Downing Street confirmed that James Cleverly, formerly the foreign secretary, will take over from Braverman, a shift that made space for Cameron’s remarkable return to Cabinet.
Braverman had served as Sunak’s interior minister throughout his tenure in Downing Street, but her confrontational rhetoric towards migrants, protesters, the police and even the homeless had caused rifts in the government and sparked speculation that she was plotting a future leadership bid.
She most recently courted criticism by accusing London’s police force of applying “double standards” in the way they manage protests, in an op-ed in the Times newspaper condemning a pro-Palestinian march that Downing Street said had not been cleared by Sunak.
On Saturday, far-right counter-protesters clashed with police in central London after Braverman called the pro-Palestinian demonstration a “hate march,” stoking tensions around a rally taking place on Remembrance Sunday.
Braverman’s comments on policing and her severe criticism of Saturday’s pro-Palestinian rally were criticized by figures across the political spectrum.
“You have a chance of inflaming both sides when you make such divisive remarks,” Neil Basu, the former head of counter-terrorism policing in the UK, told the BBC on Monday morning. “Making comments that are potentially divisive is a very dangerous thing to do… no home secretary we’ve served under would have done the same thing.”
Her departure from government comes as Sunak’s party remains deeply unpopular among voters with polls suggesting the Conservatives are drifting towards a potentially catastrophic electoral defeat next year.
Sunak has apparently gambled that bringing Cameron back into the fold would project a stability that has been missing from Westminster for some time. But it risks deepening a view among large swathes of the public that the party has run out of ideas.
Cameron resigned as an MP shortly after leaving Downing Street, meaning that King Charles was required to rapidly approve his ascension to the House of Lords on Monday in order for him to become a minister. (CNN)