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Sunak’s reshuffle gamble

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Though David Cameron had the makings of an excellent prime minister – intelligence, diligence, “a quick wit and a smooth manner” – he ended up being “one of the worst”, says Bagehot in The Economist. The Brexit referendum he called trashed the country’s 500-year-old strategy of ensuring Europe did not unite against Britain. He invited Chinese firms to invest in crucial infrastructure like telecoms and nuclear power stations, and “promised the impossible on immigration”. The “radical experiment” of austerity largely failed: the size of the state was not sustainably reduced, but we were left with “decrepit schools and hospitals”. In truth, Cameron’s philosophy of fiscal conservatism combined with social liberalism “was never a popular vision”. He only scraped one majority, in 2015. “There are not many Cameroons in Britain. Outside some newspaper op-ed pages, there never were.”

I was Cameron’s foreign secretary, says William Hague in The Times, and I’m “very pleased he will now be sitting in my old chair”. Whereas Boris Johnson’s government was “conducted in a vile, tense atmosphere, dominated by foul-mouthed, incompetent advisers”, Cameron’s was “rational and respectful” – and he should bring some of that ethos to Sunak’s team. Cameron’s oft-overlooked achievement was “to give the Conservative Party a much broader base”. Great strides were made in making sure a fiscally conservative party was also “socially liberal and internationalist”: advancing the careers of women, championing same-sex marriage, and becoming “the natural home of ethnically diverse British leadership” – of whom Sunak himself “is the outstanding embodiment”.

💣🌳 Cameron’s appointment is the latest evidence that Sunak, far from being “Captain Sensible”, has a tendency to take “huge if calculated gambles”, says Sherelle Jacobs in The Daily Telegraph. He defied his party leader to back Brexit during the referendum, and “risked a massive revolt by the green blob” by rolling back some of the country’s net zero commitments. By bringing Cameron “in from the cold”, he now threatens to unleash the fury of the Tory right.