Rishi Sunak gambled on a dramatic reshuffle to restore his political fortunes.
In a bold move, he also recalled former TV presenter Esther McVey to the Cabinet as a new ‘minister for common sense’ in charge of rooting out woke culture in Whitehall and the public sector.
Following days of speculation, the Prime Minister dismissed the Home Secretary who had infuriated No 10 last week with a series of outspoken interventions on homelessness and the policing of pro-Palestine marches.
Rishi Sunak (pictured) gambled on a dramatic reshuffle to restore his political fortunes
He risked a revolt on the Tory Right by sacking Suella Braverman and unveiling a sensational return to government for David Cameron (pictured) as Foreign Secretary
In a bold move, he also recalled former TV presenter Esther McVey (pictured) to the Cabinet as a new ‘minister for common sense’ in charge of rooting out woke culture in Whitehall and the public sector
In a dramatic twist that stunned Westminster, Mr Cameron then arrived in Downing Street, was handed a peerage and installed in the Foreign Office, seven years after he quit Downing Street in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
The changes remove the Cabinet’s most high-profile Right-winger and revive the political career of the man who led the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
Dame Andrea Jenkyns last night became the first Conservative MP to submit a formal letter of no confidence in the PM, saying Mrs Braverman had been ‘sacked for speaking the truth’. Conservative donor Lord Cruddas, a close ally of Boris Johnson, described the moves as a ‘coup’.
And former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said sacking Mrs Braverman was ‘a mistake’, warning that the return of Lord Cameron could push Tory Brexiteers into the arms of the Reform party.
‘Suella understood what the British voter thought and was trying to do something about it,’ he said. ‘It seems to me that the Prime Minister is not as well attuned to the voters’ concerns as Suella Braverman.’
But Downing Street sources said Mr Sunak had grown frustrated with Mrs Braverman’s high-profile public interventions, which stretched the boundaries of collective responsibility.
Explaining her removal, a spokesman said the PM believed the Cabinet should always ‘speak with one voice’.
Tory Remainers were jubilant at the shake-up. Former deputy PM Lord Heseltine said the removal of Mrs Braverman and the return of Lord Cameron were ‘excellent news’ – and urged Mr Sunak to go further by recalling George Osborne to government.
‘This is the clearest signal that the sort of Right-wing lurch that we’ve seen and the anti-European movement that we’ve seen have been put to bed, and that will get a message across to people,’ Lord Heseltine said.
Following days of speculation, the Prime Minister dismissed the Home Secretary who had infuriated No 10 last week with a series of outspoken interventions on homelessness and the policing of pro-Palestine marches
Former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said sacking Mrs Braverman was ‘a mistake’, warning that the return of Lord Cameron could push Tory Brexiteers into the arms of the Reform party
Theresa May said Lord Cameron’s experience in government would be ‘invaluable at this time of great uncertainty in our world’.
Former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Vaizey, however, warned that the reshuffle would trigger a ‘showdown between the Right, around Suella Braverman, and the mainstream Conservative Party.’
In other moves:
- Mrs Braverman hinted that she will hit back at Mr Sunak in the coming days;
- Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, who served as deputy PM under Liz Truss was sacked and replaced by former health secretary Steve Barclay;
- Tory rising star Victoria Atkins was catapulted into the Cabinet as Health Secretary;
- Conservative chairman Greg Hands was replaced by Red Wall MP Richard Holden after overseeing a string of heavy by-election defeats;
- Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle raised concerns about Lord Cameron’s appointment, saying it was vital for MPs to hold a foreign secretary to account.
- Mr Sunak suffered an exodus of middle ranking ministers, with Jeremy Quin, Neil O’Brien, Will Quince and long-serving education minister Nick Gibb among them;
- Lord Cameron’s ex-aide Laura Trott was made chief secretary to the Treasury;
- Mr Sunak made the 16th change to the role of housing minister since 2010, with Brexiteer Lee Rowley returning to the job;
- Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson, who backed Mrs Braverman to stay, last night attended a meeting of supporters who were said to be ‘far from pleased’ by her removal;
- No 10 dismissed criticism that there were no women in the top five jobs, saying that the PM did not believe in ‘tick box diversity’.
Ms McVey’s new role is designed in part to reassure traditional supporters that the PM has not ‘caved in’ to the Left, who were baying for Mrs Braverman’s removal.
The 56-year-old former GMTV host has served as work and pensions secretary and is known for her no-nonsense views.
She holds the official title of minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office. But government sources said she would act as the ‘minister for common sense’, with a brief to work across government rooting out woke ideology and practices.
The appointment of Lord Cameron is the most sensational Cabinet return since Gordon Brown brought back Peter Mandelson 15 years ago
But the hire brought dissent, with former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) saying Lord Cameron’s close links to China made him unsuitable to represent the UK abroad
The appointment of Lord Cameron is the most sensational Cabinet return since Gordon Brown brought back Peter Mandelson 15 years ago.
Government sources told the Mail that Mr Sunak has been using the former PM as a sounding board for months and approached him about a return to government more than a week ago as his frustration with Mrs Braverman reached breaking point.
But the hire brought dissent, with former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith saying Lord Cameron’s close links to China made him unsuitable to represent the UK abroad.
Sir Iain, one of a number of MPs sanctioned by Beijing, said: ‘The appointment of David Cameron to the Foreign Office is deeply disappointing because he has been so heavily involved with China – he was the architect of the so-called Golden Era and he’s been working with China ever since.
‘It does feel like the Government is signalling a new approach of ‘China or bust’ and that does not bode well for this country.’
Mr Sunak is also likely to face questions about the new Foreign Secretary’s opposition to Brexit and his controversial business dealings since leaving office.
Lord Cameron faced embarrassment over an affair in which he privately lobbied ministers in a bid to win Greensill Capital access to an emergency coronavirus loan scheme.
Mrs Braverman was sacked shortly after 8am. Whitehall sources said her fate was sealed days earlier when she claimed that homelessness was a ‘lifestyle choice’ – a comment that enraged many Tory moderates and which was seen as the final straw by Mr Sunak.