Former British prime minister David Cameron made a shock return to high office on Monday, becoming foreign secretary in a major shakeup of the Conservative government that also saw the firing of divisive Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Cameron, who led the government between 2010 and 2016, was appointed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in a Cabinet shuffle in which he sacked Braverman, a divisive figure who drew anger for accusing police of being too lenient with pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters.
She was replaced by James Cleverly, who had been foreign secretary.
Cameron said he “gladly accepted” the role as Britain faced “a daunting set of international challenges,” an apparent reference to the wars between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Hamas.
“While I have been out of front-line politics for the last seven years, I hope that my experience — as Conservative leader for 11 years and prime minister for six — will assist me in helping the prime minister to meet these vital challenges,” Cameron added.
Cameron’s appointment came as a surprise to seasoned politics-watchers. It’s rare for a non-lawmaker to take a senior government post, and it has been decades since a former prime minister held a Cabinet job.
The government said Cameron will be appointed to Parliament’s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords.
The last foreign secretary to serve in the Lords, rather than the elected House of Commons, was Peter Carrington, who was part of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.
It marks the return to government of a leader brought down by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
Cameron called the 2016 EU membership referendum, confident the country would vote to stay in the bloc.
He resigned the day after voters opted to leave.
At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying Cameron was a “respected leader and a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Cameron later became mired in scandal in 2021, after lobbying the UK government for finance group Greensill Capital, which later collapsed. The episode was seen as badly tarnishing his reputation.
Sunak was a strong backer of the winning “leave” side in the referendum.
Braverman’s exit was less surprising.
Sunak had been under growing pressure to fire Braverman — a hardliner popular with the authoritarian wing of the governing Conservative Party — from one of the most senior jobs in government, responsible for handling immigration and policing.
The changes are part of Sunak’s first major reshuffle of his top ministers since becoming the country’s leader in October last year.
The Conservatives, in power for nearly 14 years, said the changes “strengthen his team in government to deliver long-term decisions for a brighter future.”
Set to be announced throughout the day, they are also expected to reward loyalists and younger emerging MPs, as the party struggles for popularity.
Cameron’s unexpected return was viewed as having been made with the next general election firmly in mind.
The Tories have trailed the main Labour opposition by double-digit margins throughout Sunak’s time in power, and are widely tipped to lose the contest due next year.
Although he has a high profile and contacts around the world, Cameron’s appointment may not prove a vote winner.
Polling in September showed 45 percent of UK adults felt unfavorably towards him, while only around a quarter held a favorable view.