British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shook front pages worldwide Monday by appointing his predecessor David Cameron (2010-2016) as the United Kingdom's new Foreign Secretary in a cabinet reshuffle sparked by the dismissal of Suella Braverman from Home Affairs and her subsequent replacement by James Cleverly. Braverman was sacked after dubbing pro-Palestinian protests in London as “hate marches.”
The political maneuver also included removals of heads of other departments such as Environment and Transport, while Jeremy Hunt will remain as Finance Minister.
Cameron, 57, resigned as PM and also as Conservative Party leader in 2016 following the outcome of the Brexit referendum whereby the nation decided to depart from the European Union (EU). Since then, Cameron has been out of frontline politics publishing his memoirs and attending to personal matters. However, in 2018, The Sun mentioned he could return to the public spotlight, preferably as foreign secretary.
It was also during the Cameron years that the 2013 referendum was held in the Falkland Islands. On that occasion, the population of the archipelago voted almost unanimously (99,8%) to remain a British Overseas Territory (BOT). The Falklanders could not speak more clearly. They want to remain British and everyone, including Argentina, should respect that view, said Cameron at the time. He added he was delighted with the outcome of the vote. The Falkland Islands may be thousands of miles away, but they are British to the core and that is what they want to remain. People need to know that we will always be there to defend them, he also said.
Argentina, which is 400 km away from the archipelago, called this referendum illegal claiming the Islanders are an implanted population and therefore do not have the right to self-determination.
Cameron also agreed to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, campaigning successfully against secession as Scots voted by 55% to 45% to stay in the United Kingdom.
When it came down to Brexit, Cameron was merely three percentage points short of being third-time lucky with his referendum strategies. “I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he said when announcing his resignation.
“Though I may have disagreed with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable prime minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time,” Cameron said Monday on social networks after his appointment. The Prime Minister has asked me to serve as his Foreign Secretary and I have gladly accepted, he went on. We are facing a daunting set of international challenges, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East, added Cameron, who also spoke of a time of profound global change. He also said his experience at Downing Street would help him meet the new challenges ahead.
A descendant of King William IV and a former public relations executive for a commercial television company, Cameron became Britain’s youngest leader in almost two centuries after the 2010 election when he led the country’s first coalition government since World War Two. As prime minister, he was also instrumental in fostering support for the Islamist militant-backed rebellion in Libya which resulted in the brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi.
Cameron is currently not an MP and will not be appearing before the House of Commons to answer questions. Moreover, he is to become a life member of the non-elective House of Lords. Hence, junior ministers in the department will have to face MPs instead. It is only a constitutional convention, rather than a rule, that government ministers be a member of either house of parliament. There are other mechanisms available to hold the new foreign secretary to account.
The former Conservative leader, who can answer questions and take part in debates in the House of Lords, thus became Britain’s seventh foreign secretary in as many years. Cleverly had been on the job since September 2022 after taking over from Liz Truss, who had held the post for a year. Dominic Raab (2019-2021) was removed over criticism that he remained on holiday in Crete as the Taliban advanced on Kabul. Hunt had held that office from 2018-2019 and Boris Johnson did so between July 2016 and July 2018. Philip Hammond was foreign secretary from July 2014 until three weeks after the Brexit vote in 2016.
The last member of the House of Lords to serve on a cabinet was Lord Carrington, Margaret Thatcher’s foreign secretary between 1979 and 1982. Regarding past Prime Ministers appointed foreign secretaries, history has the case of Alex Douglas Home (1963-1964) held that position between 1970 and 1974 under PM Ted Heath to prove Cameron shall not be the first.