David Cameron says his return to Cabinet is 'not usual' but hopes his six years as PM can be beneficial to Sunak

13 November 2023, 17:08

David Cameron has been appointed as foreign secretary
David Cameron has been appointed as foreign secretary. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Asher McShane

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has admitted it is "not usual" for a former PM to come back to frontline politics in the way he has done - in his first statement after making his shock return.

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He said his belief "in public service" is what motivated him to come back.

Mr Cameron said: "The prime minister asked me to do this job and it's a time when we have some daunting challenges as a country.

"Of course, I hope that six years as PM, 11 years leading the Tory Party gives me some useful experience and contacts and relationships and knowledge that I can help the prime minister to make sure we build our alliances... and we keep our country strong."

He said he has "tried to keep quiet about politics".

Mr Cameron was made Foreign Secretary in a shock move as part of Rishi Sunak's Cabinet reshuffle.

The former Prime Minister was offered the job after Suella Braverman was sacked as Home Secretary as part of the reshuffle on Monday morning.

Mr Cameron was seen entering Downing Street at around 9am, and Mr Sunak's office confirmed the move about an hour later.

It came after then-Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was appointed to replace Ms Braverman - leaving the job of Britain's top diplomat open.

Follow Live: Cabinet reshuffle LIVE: Cameron appointed foreign secretary and Braverman sacked as Sunak shakes up top team

Mr Cameron, who stepped down in 2016 after six years at No. 10, was made a Baron along with his appointment as Foreign Secretary. Tradition dictates that any member of the Cabinet must be an MP or a peer.

David Cameron entering 10 Downing Street on Monday morning
David Cameron entering 10 Downing Street on Monday morning. Picture: Alamy

He said after his appointment: "We are facing a daunting set of international challenges, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East. At this time of profound global change, it has rarely been more important for this country to stand by our allies, strengthen our partnerships and make sure our voice is heard.

"While I have been out of front-line politics for the last seven years, I hope that my experience – as Conservative Leader for eleven years and Prime Minister for six – will assist me in helping the Prime Minister to meet these vital challenges. Britain is a truly international country.

"Our people live all over the world and our businesses trade in every corner of the globe. Working to help ensure stability and security on the global stage is both essential and squarely in our national interest. International security is vital for our domestic security."

Nick Ferrari and Natasha Clark's immediate reaction as Suella Braverman is sacked

Mr Cameron has publicly agreed with the government's Rwanda scheme for migrants, which has been locked in a legal battle. The Supreme Court will deliver a final verdict on the scheme on Wednesday.

The former PM told LBC's Nick Ferrari in May: "If you don't have a better answer to the things that the government is doing to try and stop this illegal trade, there's no point criticising."

Read more: James Cleverly confirmed as Home Secretary after Suella Braverman sacked over inflammatory policing comments

But Mr Cameron has also been critical of some aspects of Mr Sunak's government, and recently hit out at the decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2.

He said after his appointment: "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."

A former Prime Minister returning to Cabinet in a lesser role is extremely rare: the most recent time it happened was when Conservative former PM Alec Douglas-Home became Foreign Secretary in the 1970s.

Mr Cameron was embroiled in a lobbying row in 2021 after it emerged that he had pressed for an emergency loan during the pandemic for his employer, Greensill Capital. He privately lobbied ministers including then-Chancellor Mr Sunak for access to an emergency loan.

Caller: It is 'right' that Suella Braverman has been fired

The former PM later acknowledged me made mis-steps and accepted he should have communicated with the government "through only the most formal of channels".

The Liberal Democrats called for Mr Cameron's peerage to be blocked. The party's Foreign Affairs spokesperson said: "Bringing back a scandal-hit, unelected former Prime Minister who has been criticising Sunak's government at every turn has the stench of desperation. There is not even the bottom of the barrel left for Sunak to scrape in the Conservative party.

“David Cameron was at the heart of the biggest lobbying scandal of recent times. Handing him a peerage makes a mockery of our honours system."

Mr Cameron came to power in 2010, becoming the first Conservative Prime Minister since 1997. He stepped down after EU referendum, having backed Remain.

The legacy of his time in office is contested: along with Chancellor George Osborne, he slashed government spending, as the economy reeled after the 2008 financial crash, and many have been critical of the austerity policy. But it was also a period of relative stability in British politics, in comparison with the turmoil of recent years.

Among Mr Cameron's most notable foreign policy efforts was his government's ill-fated military intervention in Libya in 2011. A report in 2016 by parliament's foreign affairs committee said that the intervention was "founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation."

Read more: Suella Braverman sacked as Home Secretary following inflammatory comments about policing

Read more: Reshuffle LIVE: Suella Braverman sacked as Rishi Sunak shakes up top team

David Cameron on Sunday
David Cameron on Sunday. Picture: Getty

Ms Braverman was fired after writing a strongly-worded article in The Times, complaining about a "double standard" between how causes are policed ahead of a weekend of demonstrations and counter-protests.

Some blamed Ms Braverman's language for inflaming the problem on Saturday as dozens of people were arrested.

LBC's Natasha Clark said that Ms Braverman was "setting herself up to be future leader of the opposition".

Ms 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."

Schools minister Nick Gibb and health minister Neil O'Brien have also stepped down.

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