David Cameron | Comeback conservative

The former British Prime Minister is back in the government as Foreign Secretary as PM Sunak reshuffles his Cabinet after firing controversial Home Secretary Suella Braverman

November 19, 2023 02:49 am | Updated 10:33 am IST

David Cameron, who was the U.K. Prime Minister during 2010-16, was seen entering Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official residence on November 13, shortly after controversial Home Secretary Suella Braverman was sacked, leaving many surprised.

Seven years after resigning from the post of Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron is now back as the country’s Foreign Secretary. Former (outgoing) Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was appointed Home Secretary.

Perhaps the most notable among Mr. Cameron’s political legacy was the 2016 Brexit referendum that resulted in a narrow majority favouring to “leave” the EU. In what became popular as the Bloomberg speech, Mr. Cameron announced his plan for a referendum on British membership of the EU in January 2013.

The result of the Brexit referendum led to Mr. Cameron’s resignation from the post of the Prime Minister since his campaign was in favour of staying within the bloc.

Mr. Cameron’s involvement with the Conservative Party goes way back in time, even before his political career took off. In 1984, a year before he started his course at the University of Oxford, Mr. Cameron worked for the Sussex Conservative MP Tim Rathbone. After graduation, he joined the Conservative research department where he worked for PM Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major. He quickly rose in the party and later held the post of special adviser, first at the Treasury and then at the Home Office.

Electoral career

Mr. Cameron was elected the MP from Witney for the first time in 2001. By 2005, he became the leader of the party, defeating better-known competitors, and hoping to usher in an era of “modern, compassionate conservatism”, which, in his own words, was based on “trusting people and sharing responsibility”. He led the Conservative Party for almost 11 years, which is a rare feat and only Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher have held the post for longer.

The world was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis when Mr. Cameron was elected Prime Minister in 2010. To reduce the budget deficit, he introduced austerity measures.

Austerity measures introduced by the Cameron administration also drew attention to and caused criticism of the Prime Minister’s own elite upbringing. Mr. Cameron studied at some of Britain’s premier institutions, the Eton College and the University of Oxford. Sociologist Lee Elliot Major and economist Stephen Machin, in a blog post, even claimed that he descended from King William IV of the 19th century.

Mr. Cameron’s tenure as the U.K. leader was marked by international events such as the Arab Spring and the war on Libya. The U.K. was part of an international coalition that intervened in Libya in 2011 to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Mr. Cameron was later accused of diving into the exercise without a coherent strategy, causing Libya to descend into violence and instability. A 2016 U.K. Foreign Affairs Committee report blamed him for failing to adequately plan for the aftermath. In 2013, Mr. Cameron became the first U.K. PM in over 100 years to lose a parliamentary vote on military action that ruled out armed intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

“Whatever the pros and cons of his premiership, it ended in disastrous failure. Like Tony Blair, on whom he often seemed to model himself, his legacy will be summed up in one word. For Blair it was Iraq. For Cameron it is Europe,” historian Ian Kershaw wrote in The Guardian in 2016.

Now back in the government with a brand-new job as Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, Mr. Cameron’s appointment is also shrouded in concerns about the Greensill Capital scandal. A 2021 parliamentary inquiry had found that he showed lack of judgement while lobbying government officials, including Mr. Sunak, on behalf of a financial services firm.

“As a former PM, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation,” Mr. Cameron had said in response to the allegations.

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