14 November 2023

Papers react to Sunak’s reshuffle ‘gamble’ over return of Cameron

14 November 2023

The Cabinet reshuffle which saw the return of former prime minister Lord David Cameron and the dismissal of Suella Braverman as home secretary has been labelled a risk and a gamble by the nation’s newspapers.

The balancing act Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has attempted between the different wings of the Conservative Party is assessed in various titles.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Sunak is “gambling with the Conservative Party’s very survival” with Sherelle Jacobs asking if he has made “the gamble of his career”.

“Has Sunak destroyed the careful balance of power upon which his position is based?” she asked.

“We’ll find out very soon whether Sunak has gambled with a full comprehension of the stakes. For now we can only gape slightly dumbfounded at British politics’ latest shock turn.”

Writing for the Telegraph, former Cabinet member Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg argues the former home secretary was sacked for “being right” and “for following Conservative policy and principles too loudly for the refined tastes and sensitivities of the Prime Minister”.

He said: “The sacking of Suella Braverman removes a champion of orthodox conservative policy that is popular in the country.

“Many Tories will view this reshuffle and feel that the Prime Minister does not want to deal with their concerns.”

The Times argues that the appointment of Lord Cameron risks “playing into Labour’s hands” by confirming the Opposition’s assertion that Mr Sunak’s administration is “just the latest incarnation of 13 years of Tory government”.

It says Mrs Braverman “expected to be sacked” and felt she would be “better off outside the cabinet than within given the carnage that the Tories face over the next year”.

The risk of a confrontation with the right of the party, the paper said, could balance on the Supreme Court judgment on the Rwanda asylum policy.

“Sunak’s calculation as he reshapes his government is that he has the political strength to quash any rebellion from the right,” it said. “If the Rwanda decision goes against the government on Wednesday his mettle is likely to be tested.”

The paper adds the appointment of Esther McVey to an “anti-woke role” in the Cabinet was designed to keep hardliners on side.

The Daily Mail describes the reshuffle as “Rishi’s big throw of the dice” with Richard Littlejohn arguing that Mr Sunak has underscored “his own inherent weakness”.

“Out of ideas, out of touch with Tory voters and rapidly running out of road, it’s difficult to see what this bizarre last throw of the dice is supposed to achieve,” he said.

The Daily Express says Mrs Braverman has been “liberated” to become the “people’s champion” while Sam Lister said the return of Mr Cameron has “dragged them back 10 years”.

“Sacking Suella Braverman and reviving the career of David Cameron has sent a message to the right of the party, and in particular those representing the Red Wall, that he has given up on them,” he said.

Kevin Maguire labels the reshuffle “pantomime politics” in the Daily Mirror, declaring that “Christmas is coming early for Keir Starmer and Labour” as Mr Sunak has “punctured his entire Downing Street change plan to present himself as a new, fresh leader”.

The Guardian calls it a “high-stakes reshuffle” with Pippa Crerar saying it has “fanned the flames of rebellion”.

“Cameron’s appointment indicates a determined strategic tilt from Sunak towards shoring up the blue wall, with polls showing that many voters in the Tory heartlands backed the prime minister because they thought he would be a Cameron mark two,” she wrote.

In The Sun, Harry Cole said Mr Cameron’s return on the same day as Mrs Braverman is sacked “is a big signal from the centre on the direction of travel No 10 now wants to go”.

Further afield, the New York Times echoes the view that Mr Sunak has taken a gamble with “another reset” and a “swerve to centre”.

It said he had “tried various gambits to address his party’s unpopularity with voters” but “none seem to have worked”.

“While bringing back Mr Cameron is a political gamble, Mr Sunak may have judged the risk worthwhile,” it said. “He has limited time to win back voters, or possibly even to limit the scale of a defeat in the looming election.

Le Monde asked if the appointment of the former prime minister was an attempt to “limit the discontent of Braverman’s many right-wing supporters, by making her firing less personal”.

It said while Mr Cameron “passes for a moderate Conservative” and is known on the international scene, “his legacy is controversial – to say the least”.

The Sydney Morning Herald describes his return as a “gamble with uncertain pay-off”, while The Australian says Mr Sunak’s call to one of his predecessors was “seen as desperate rather than inspired”.

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