London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a major cabinet reshuffle, in which he sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman and replaced her with former Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. In a surprise move, Sunak also appointed former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new foreign secretary, marking his return to frontline politics after seven years.
Braverman, who was appointed by Sunak when he took office in October 2022, faced criticism for her controversial comments on the pro-Palestinian protests that took place in London and other cities in recent weeks. Braverman wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph, accusing the Metropolitan Police of being biased towards left-wing causes and failing to crack down on the demonstrators, who she claimed were inciting violence and hatred against Israel. She also compared the protests to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a period of sectarian conflict that lasted for three decades and claimed over 3,000 lives.
Braverman’s article sparked outrage from the opposition Labour Party, the public, and some of her own colleagues, who accused her of undermining the police and inflaming tensions in the country. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that Braverman was “targeting her own police” and that her statements were “creating community tension” in Britain. Sunak reportedly asked Braverman to resign, but she refused, forcing him to dismiss her from her post.
Cleverly, who had served as foreign secretary since February 2023, was named as the new home secretary. Cleverly, who is of mixed British and Sierra Leonean descent, is seen as a rising star in the Conservative Party and a loyal ally of Sunak. He has been praised for his handling of the UK’s relations with the EU, the US, and other countries, as well as his involvement in the Windsor Framework, a new initiative to strengthen the ties between the UK and the Commonwealth nations. Cleverly said that he was “honoured” to take on the role of home secretary and that he would “work tirelessly to keep our country safe and secure”.
The most unexpected appointment in the reshuffle was that of Cameron as the new foreign secretary. Cameron, who was the prime minister of the UK from 2010 to 2016, resigned from his post and from parliament after he lost the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, which he had called in 2016. Cameron had campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, but the majority of the voters opted to leave, triggering a political and constitutional crisis that led to the Brexit process. Cameron had largely stayed out of the public eye since his resignation, except for a brief scandal involving his lobbying activities for a collapsed finance firm in 2020.
Sunak said that he decided to bring back Cameron as the foreign secretary because he believed that he had the “experience, expertise, and vision” to lead the UK’s diplomacy in a “challenging and uncertain world”. He said that Cameron had a “proven track record” of negotiating with world leaders and securing the UK’s interests on the global stage. He also praised Cameron for his role in establishing the Windsor Framework, which he said was a “historic opportunity” to enhance the UK’s role and influence in the world.
Cameron said that he was “delighted” to accept the offer and that he was “looking forward” to working with Sunak and the rest of the cabinet. He said that he was “passionate” about the UK’s role in the world and that he would “work hard” to advance the UK’s values and interests abroad. He also said that he was “proud” of his achievements as the prime minister, especially the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, which he said was a “democratic exercise” that gave the people a “clear choice” on their future.
The reshuffle, which comes ahead of a general election expected next year, is seen as an attempt by Sunak to refresh his team and boost his party’s popularity, which has been lagging behind the Labour Party in the polls. Sunak, who became the prime minister after Boris Johnson resigned in October 2022 following a series of scandals and controversies, has faced criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recovery, and the implementation of Brexit. He has also faced challenges from within his own party, especially from the hardline Brexiteers and the right-wing faction led by Braverman. By sacking Braverman and bringing back Cameron, Sunak is hoping to assert his authority and present a more moderate and pragmatic image of his government.