13 NOVEMBER 2023 | NEWS
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reshuffled his Cabinet today, in a move that had been widely anticipated in Westminster circles.
Following an explosive article in The Times by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, in which she called for the Metropolitan Police to take what she described as a more “even-handed” approach to regulating protests, it emerged that her piece had not been cleared by Downing Street.
One former Tory Minister, Tim Loughton, told the press that her article had been “unhelpful”. The understanding in Downing Street is thought to be that Ms Braverman had not respected the conditions of collective responsibility for Cabinet Ministers. However, following her dismissal, she has publicly added that she has “more to say” on the matter.
It is suspected in Westminster that she may go on to position herself as a future right-wing candidate in any subsequent Conservative Party leadership election.
But the most unusual move in Mr Sunak’s reshuffle was to appoint former Prime Minister David Cameron to the role of Foreign Secretary, replacing its previous incumbent, James Cleverly. It is not yet clear as to what exact title Mr Cameron will receive as a Member of the Lords, which is another rare development.
The move makes him the first former Prime Minister to serve in a ministerial role since Alec Douglas-Home, who was also Foreign Secretary between 1970 and 1974, serving under Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath.
Mr Cameron has since issued a statement on his appointment to the role, referring to ongoing geopolitical issues, expressing a hope that his experience could assist him in “helping the Prime Minister in meeting these vital challenges”.
Mr Cleverly has instead been made Home Secretary to replace Ms Braverman, who will now return to the backbenches. The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will remain in place.
While it is well within constitutional bounds for a holder of a Great Office of State to be a Member of the House of Lords, rather than the Commons, it is not possible for them to answer questions from elected Members in the Commons. Nor can they be held to account as such, or speak in Commons debates.
The last time for a Foreign Secretary to sit in the Lords was Lord Carrington in 1979–82, under Margaret Thatcher’s government. It is suspected that Cameron’s immediate deputy – believed to be Andrew Mitchell as Minister of State at the Foreign Office – will be the figure to answer to scrutiny in the Commons.
It is understood that several Tory MPs from the party’s right wing have been meeting this evening to discuss the move, which is believed to include Andrea Jenkyns, Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates. Ms Jenkys also tweeted “Enough is enough … It is time for Rishi Sunak to go and replace him with a ‘real’ Conservative party leader.”
In other dismissals and appointments today, Thérèse Coffey is no longer Environment Secretary, being replaced by Steve Barclay. Mr Barclay will himself be replaced by Victoria Atkins. The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury will be Laura Trott, while John Glen will be the new Paymaster General.
Richard Holden has replaced Greg Hands as Chairman of the Party, with the latter moved to Minister of State at the Department of Business and Trade. Lee Rowley will take on the Housing brief, replacing Rachel Maclean and becoming the seventh Housing Minister in the past two years.
Lastly, Esther McVey is returning to the Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio, with the right to attend Cabinet meetings.
Conservative MPs on the Party’s moderate wing are said to be in good humour as to the outcome of the reshuffle, while Members on the Party’s right are said to be taking the view that this is a move by the Prime Minister to lean further towards centrist politics and policies.
A Labour Party source said: “Just because something is a marmalade dropper, doesn’t make it a good idea,” adding that it was a “big strategic blunder to kill off the change message they were trying to land by bringing back the Tory PM who started 13 years of failure”.
Meanwhile, a Liberal Democrat source accused the Prime Minister of “openly running scared” of their party’s potential electoral chances at the next General Election.
The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment.