‘So much for the “integrity, professionalism, accountability” that Sunak promised from the steps of Number Ten last year. This move reeks of shamelessness and desperation.’Mike Phipps
Labour Hub’s Mike Phipps looks at Rishi Sunak’s desperate Cabinet reshuffle
The sacking of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary may come as a relief to many, but it also a sign of a government in grave crisis.
Rishi Sunak needed Braverman, not because she commands much support in the Tory party but because she was licensed to say things that he cannot be seen to. If the ‘war on woke’ was a central plank of the Conservatives’ damage limitation strategy at the forthcoming general election, the dumping of Braverman rips a hole in that whole approach.
But axing her was ultimately the least worst option for Sunak. “Her week’s worth of far right-enabling antics…, open insubordination, and unprecedented public criticism of the police is accumulating nothing but opposition among elite layers and opinion formers,” observed one analyst on the eve of her departure.
Owen Jones tweeted: “Suella Braverman is a hate monger who whipped up bile against refugees and migrants, and played a key role in whipping up a far right mob. But don’t let them get away with making her the fall guy. The Tories and their media allies all did that together.”
Braverman’s replacement by former Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is also awash with contradictions. If the plan to deport people to Rwanda falls foul of the Supreme Court later this week, Cleverly is much less likely to call for Britain to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights. Braverman almost certainly will – intensifying the deep divisions in her party in the process – which helps explain why Sunak was so reluctant to dismiss her for so long despite her recent run of unscripted outbursts.
A further contradiction is that Cleverly is also on record for opposing a flagship Home Office policy – the conversion of former RAF Wethersfield to accommodate 1,700 asylum seekers. The base is in Cleverly’s Braintree constituency – and in March he confirmed to constituents that he had lobbied his government colleagues to stop the plan.
The shock return of David Cameron to government, replacing Cleverly at the Foreign Office, is also full of contradictions and smacks of desperation. Cameron, it should not be forgotten, resigned after bungling the Brexit referendum, which ushered in the chaos that led to the corruption and misgovernance of the Boris Johnson era. As Foreign Secretary, Cameron will have to clear up the remains of the mess he helped create.
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP tweeted: “Sunak isn’t just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, it’s the equivalent of bringing on board the pilot who couldn’t see the iceberg!”
Cameron returns to high office as a member of the House of Lords. He will therefore not be accountable for whatever he does before the elected Commons, a situation even Tories are complaining about. He inherits the decision of previous Tory governments to cut foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.5%, a decision strongly criticised by Cameron at the time.
Cameron has also previously called Gaza “a prison camp” and has criticised Israel’s ”illegal” settlements in Palestinian territory. In 2010 the former Prime Minister said: “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.” Will he now repudiate these positions in order to fit into this right wing government’s inhumane agenda
But before Cameron’s appointment is hailed as a step in a liberal direction, it should be remembered that he supported Suella Braverman’s Rwanda deportation scheme.
Former Labour Director of Policy under Jeremy Corbyn Andrew Fisher highlighted other problems with Cameron’s appointment, tweeting, “That David Cameron can even be contemplated as Foreign Secretary after his disastrous bombing of Libya (not to mention the Greensill lobbying scandal) shows how much the barrel is being scraped in British politics.”
David Cameron made $4.5 million in shares and fees from the finance company Greensill Capital before it collapsed, according to BBC’s Panorama. In 2021, an MPs’ report accused him of “a significant lack of judgement” in lobbying the government on behalf of the company. Cameron was accused of trying to exploit private contacts with former government colleagues, for his own benefit. The Deputy Editor of the Financial Times described it as “the biggest lobbying scandal in modern UK history”.
In this context, Cameron’s return to power could well backfire on the embattled Prime Minister who appointed him. So much for the “integrity, professionalism, accountability” that Sunak promised from the steps of Number Ten last year. This move reeks of shamelessness and desperation.
Grace Blakeley in Tribune described Cameron as a “murky opportunist”, “infamous for the introduction of the disastrous austerity policies that wrecked the British economy.” She added: “British politics is full of wealthy men failing up and, as Boris Johnson or Michael Gove could attest, introducing disastrous policies is rarely enough to end someone’s political career.”
Meanwhile reports have emerged of another former Prime Minister returning to frontline politics. As Gaza’s largest hospital becomes a cemetery, according to the World Health Organization, with bodies piling up inside and outside, as a result of bombing and energy cutoffs imposed by the Israeli military, reports have emerged that Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to install Tony Blair as a “humanitarian co-ordinator” in the enclave. Blair’s ‘interest’ in the region is long-standing, from the bombing of Iraq from 2003 onwards. He continues to provide advice to the Saudi government, despite the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Pressure on the political elite to change course over Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire continues to mount. Amnesty International took the unusual step of not just declaring for a cessation of hostilities, but calling on people to “urge Rishi Sunak to call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties and help end the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”
A rally has been called for Wednesday November 15th at Parliament to pressurise MPs to vote for a ceasefire.
- This article was originally published on Labour Hub on Monday 13th November, 2023
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