SEVEN years ago, David Cameron left Downing Street after his big gamble to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union backfired and brought his sixyear term as prime minister to an end.
A few months later, his political career appeared to be over as he resigned his seat in parliament. Opponents blamed him for the defeat in the referendum in which he had campaigned for “remain”, and Brexit supporters said he had failed to implement a proper strategy to prepare for departure.
News that he had been appointed foreign secretary by prime minister Rishi Sunak on Monday (13) delighted the centrist wing of the ruling Conservative party, who said Britain needed a big hitter on the global stage who would also prove an electoral asset.
But for critics of Sunak, the appointment of someone whose policies he has criticised – and who, in return, has been dismissive of his leadership – was a desperate act to resurrect his ailing government. The Tories are languishing some 20 points behind in opinion polls with an election expected next year.
“Though I may have disagreed with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable prime minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time,” Cameron said after his appointment.
He became the country’s youngest prime minister for almost two centuries in 2010, when he also headed the first coalition government since the Second World War. But he alienated some on the party’s rightwing, as he sought to modernise the Conservative’s agenda by backing issues such as same-sex marriage and climate change.
Centrist Tory lawmakers believe Cameron will help the party win back voters who have been put off by its more populist recent right-wing turn.
As someone who was educated at Eton College, Britain’s most exclusive private school, he is open to the same criticism of being out of touch with the public that is aimed at Sunak. He and his wife, Akshata Murthy, are the richest couple to ever occupy Downing Street.
“I understand there’s a lot of baggage that comes with David Cameron,” Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood told Times Radio.
His colleague Dehenna Davidson said his vision of the party was the reason she was in parliament.
Theresa May, who replaced Cameron as prime minister before being ousted amid a party rebellion over Brexit three years later, said his experience would be invaluable. “Looking forward to working together again!” she said on X.