Under pressure, UK’s Sunak attempts another cabinet reset with shift to the center | ET REALITY


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday sacked one of his most senior and divisive ministers, in a shake-up of his top team that unexpectedly brought a centrist predecessor, David Cameron, back into government.

Suella Braverman’s departure as home secretary and Cameron’s surprise return as foreign secretary were the latest in a series of upheavals that have rocked the ruling Conservative Party since the fateful Brexit referendum that Cameron called in 2016, noting the danger Sunak faces as the general election scheduled for next year approaches.

After 13 years in Downing Street, the Conservatives’ power appears to be waning: the party is around 20 points behind Labor in the polls, in a challenging economic context, with slow growth and inflation eroding living standards. , and a public sector under acute strain after years of Conservative-led austerity.

Sunak has tried various tactics to address his party’s unpopularity with voters, weakening environmental targets, promising to defend motorists and promising tougher sentences for serious criminals. None seem to have worked.

At the same time, Braverman, who is seen as a rival within the party, had become increasingly emboldened as interior minister, raising her profile and appearing to set the stage for a leadership bid if the Conservatives lose the election, as many do. are waiting.

Last week he wrote an extraordinary op-ed in The Times of London, which was not authorized by Downing Street, in which he criticized the police for not trying to ban a pro-Palestinian protest march in the capital, and called the protesters as “hateful.” protesters” and “Islamists”.

After counter-protesters clashed with police on Saturday, critics accused Ms Braverman of exacerbating tensions and encouraging far-right protesters to take to the streets, and Downing Street deemed her position untenable.

Sunak and Braverman spoke by phone on Monday, and in the shuffle that followed her departure, she was replaced by the more emollient former foreign secretary, James Cleverly, freeing up her position for Cameron.

Both men are considered moderates and the changes appeared to signal a move away from the divisive politics championed by Braverman, whose focus on cultural issues had become a feature of Sunak’s government in recent months.

Neither appointment was good news for the right-wing faction of the Conservative Party, where Braverman had a small but vocal group of supporters.

Nor was Sunak’s decision to keep Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hunt’s resistance to offering tax cuts has angered a broader group of Conservative lawmakers. He, like Cameron, campaigned against Brexit in 2016, but Hunt has made controlling inflation his priority and says tax cuts will have to wait.

Cameron’s return to the cabinet may remind some voters of the political chaos he unleashed in 2016 when Britons ignored his recommendation and voted narrowly to leave the European Union. Sunak is the fourth Conservative leader to become prime minister since Cameron stepped aside after the referendum result, which sent shockwaves across Europe.

Sunak restored some stability when he succeeded Liz Truss as prime minister last year, but his latest reshuffle risks reopening the ideological divisions that have dogged the party in recent years. Although the prominence of Brexit has faded in British politics, Cameron – who led the campaign against it – will now be partly responsible for promoting the policy around the world.

However, while bringing Cameron back is a political gamble, Sunak may have considered the risk worth it. He has limited time to win back voters, or possibly even to limit the magnitude of a defeat in the upcoming election.

Braverman had lost her job as home secretary once before, under the brief Truss government, but Sunak gave it back to her when she entered Downing Street. He used his cabinet position to push far-right policies and embraced polarizing rhetoric, describing migration as a “hurricane,” the arrival of asylum seekers on the British coast as an “invasion,” and homelessness as a “ lifestyle choice.

While Mr Sunak’s language was more measured, he supported most of his ideas, particularly his pursuit of a policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. This faces a critical test on Wednesday, when the country’s Supreme Court will rule on its legality following a series of challenges.

The decision to bring back Cameron, who led the Conservatives between 2005 and 2016, appeared to be at odds with Sunak’s recent claims at his party’s annual conference of being an agent of change.

He also highlighted a constitutional requirement of the British political system that ministers sit in Parliament to be able to propose laws and be accountable to their fellow lawmakers. As a result, Sunak on Monday nominated Cameron for a seat in the House of Lords, the less powerful and unelected upper house of Parliament.

It is not the first time in the modern era that a Foreign Secretary has been a member of the House of Lords, rather than the House of Commons: Peter Carington, who became Lord Carrington and, as such, gained a second r in his name, he held that position between 1979 and 1982. He resigned in the midst of the Falklands crisis, when troops from Argentina occupied a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic in 1982, sparking a brief conflict.

While the situation is not unique, Cameron’s status as a member of the House of Lords has already caused tensions among House of Commons lawmakers, as he will normally not speak to them, but to an assembly of non-members. elected from the upper house. .

Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons, said on Monday she was exploring ways elected lawmakers could hold the new foreign secretary to account. It was “particularly important” that they could examine her work, “given the seriousness of the current international situation,” Hoyle said in Parliament.

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