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Rishi Sunak stunned Westminster on Monday by bringing David Cameron back to the political frontline as foreign secretary in a dramatic reshuffle that also included the sacking of controversial Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
James Cleverly, previously foreign secretary, replaced Braverman at the Home Office with the task of calming community tensions after a weekend of protests and violence on the streets of London.
But the biggest surprise came when Cameron, who has played virtually no political role since stepping down as prime minister following the 2016 Brexit vote, was given the post of foreign secretary. Jeremy Hunt remains Chancellor.
Sunak used his Conservative Party speech last month to promise to be the prime minister of “change” and denounced the failure of “30 years of consensus”. Now he has turned to his centrist predecessor for help.
With the Tories trailing Labor by more than 20 points in opinion polls, the reshuffle represents Sunak’s final attempt to assemble a team before the next election.
The move of the mild-mannered Cleverly to the Home Office and the reinstatement of Cameron, a classic Home Counties Tory, suggests that Sunak has decided to present a less aggressive face to the public. Cameron becomes a life peer.
Cameron, Tory prime minister from 2010 to 2016, was recently at the center of Britain’s biggest lobbying scandal in decades when the Financial Times revealed he had secretly lobbied former government colleagues on behalf of his employer Greensill Capital.
“A few weeks ago Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of a failed status quo, now he is bringing him back as his life raft,” said Labor campaign director Pat McFadden. “This undermines the Prime Minister’s ridiculous claim to offer a change after 13 years of Conservative failure.”
Braverman’s sacking will spark a backlash from some right-wing Tory MPs, but Sunak’s allies believe the political fallout can be contained. “She doesn’t have an army behind her,” said an ally of the prime minister.
The Home Secretary was sacked after writing an article last week accusing the police of bias. Downing Street said it had not been “cleared”. Braverman’s allies called Number 10 “clowns” on Sunday night.
The acrimonious nature of her departure suggests that Braverman could now launch a campaign from the backbenches for a future Tory leadership bid, supported by members of the right-wing Common Sense Group of Tory MPs.
The Supreme Court will rule on Wednesday on their plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. If it is deemed unlawful, Braverman is likely to renew her calls for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Braverman said: “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Home Secretary. I will have more to say in due course.”
Sunak will portray the moves as a chance to promote younger ministers and expel some underperforming Cabinet members ahead of elections expected next year.
“Today Rishi Sunak is strengthening his government team to make long-term decisions for a better future,” the Conservative party said on social media platform X.
Thérèse Coffey, environment secretary, and Steve Barclay, health secretary, are among the ministers set to be sacked. Laura Trott, pensions minister, and Richard Holden, transport minister, are among those being considered for promotion.
Braverman’s dismissal came after she sparked widespread anger with her comments that rough sleeping was a “lifestyle choice” and her criticism of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests in recent days.
This also comes just 13 months after she was forced to resign from her post by former prime minister Liz Truss over a technical security breach in which she used her personal email address to send information relating to government business .