Just as the nation was celebrating Suella Braverman finally being sacked as home secretary, up pops David Cameron as our new foreign secretary. Talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
If you’re not convinced, ask yourself the following questions.
Did Cameron call a referendum on our relationship with the EU? Did he define the terms of that referendum as effectively “EU membership” or “any other EU-UK relationship”? Did the UK then have to spend several years arguing with itself, and with the EU, as to what that new relationship should be? Seven years later, has that question been settled – or has there been no government in Northern Ireland for nearly two years because the pro-Brexit DUP rejected the new relationship?
Did Cameron resign, handing people like Boris Johnson a blank cheque to decide our new UK-EU relationship and, by extension, our place in the world? Did Johnson introduce a much more populist, Trump-like style of politics to the UK? Did Braverman play a key part in that?
By now, you’ll know if you’re a fan of Braverman or not. For the handful of undecideds out there, I have a couple more questions.
Did the former home secretary recently announce plans to punish charities that give tents to homeless people, because for many, living on the streets is a “lifestyle choice”?
Did she refuse to apologise to a Holocaust survivor who criticised her for referring to asylum-seekers as an “invasion”?
So, does Braverman’s firing, and Cameron’s return, feel like the Tories are solving the problem – or does it feel like they’re simply replacing the problem with the thing that created the problem in the first place Suffice to say, according to a YouGov poll, Brits wanted Rishi Sunak to sack Braverman by a ratio of 2-1.
It all says a lot about how the Conservatives think. This is the second time in two years that the Tories have been in a state of chaos, and have asked an arch-Remainer from the 2015 administration to help steady their ship.
In 2016, Jeremy Hunt warned in a tweet that the NHS was “funded through tax revenues that would disappear following Brexit”, and that the price would be “paid by [the] poorest and most vulnerable”. It was he they turned to last year, making him chancellor of the Exchequer, after Liz Truss and her Brexiteer chancellor crashed the pound.
Be in no doubt, Hunt hasn’t changed his views on Brexit: he still says the economy would grow faster in the EU single market.
Now, after Braverman incited hundreds of far-right thugs over the Remembrance weekend, like some kind of January 6th tribute act, they’ve brought back the head cheerleader for the Remain campaign to run the Foreign Office. It is a further admission that the “Get Brexit Done” administrations we’ve endured for years know that their agenda has been bad for the UK, and that they need Remainers to help put things right.
Brexit was the turning point for the Conservative Party. In 2018, government experts said that no matter which version of Brexit they negotiated, it would make people poorer. So by pursuing Brexit – any Brexit – the Tory party abandoned its image of “being sensible with the economy”. Instead, they’re knowingly damaging it. So perhaps the return of Cameron, and keeping Hunt in place at the Treasury, signals a gradual return to traditional conservatism, although I’ll struggle to believe it until the party turns its back on Brexit.
Whatever the motivation, Cameron is not an MP. He has not been elected. He has no accountability to the public. He also has a track record of recklessly unleashing Brexit and Johnson on the UK. Yet he is being put in charge of the UK’s foreign affairs while we are actively involved in two major international conflicts. By elevating Cameron into the Lords – purely so that he can legally sit in cabinet – Sunak is bypassing the public’s expectation that ministers be elected.
All this is being done by a party with a minority of the vote, on the order of a prime minister that nobody voted for, and who was initially rejected even by his own party’s members.
So here’s my final question. Do you still think the UK’s democracy is alive and well?
Femi Oluwole is a passionate campaigner against Brexit and a co-founder of pro-European Union advocacy group Our Future Our Choice