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Matt Hancock says David Cameron's return to government is 'brilliant decision'

Matt Hancock has praised David Cameron's appointment as foreign secretary as 'superb for Britain' - but not everyone sees that as a ringing endorsement.

  • Former health secretary Matt Hancock has hailed David Cameron's return to politics as "superb for Britain"

  • Rishi Sunak's appointment of Cameron as foreign secretary is likely to be controversial given his Brexit legacy, and the fact he is unelected

  • The prime minister's Cabinet reshuffle comes after the sacking of home secretary Suella Braverman, who was accused of stoking tensions ahead of Armistice Day protests

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Matt Hancock's endorsement of David Cameron (right) was described by one MP as a 'kiss of death' (Getty Images)

Matt Hancock has hailed Rishi Sunak's appointment of David Cameron as foreign secretary as a "brilliant decision".

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the former health secretary said: "Superb for Britain - bringing his experience to guide us through difficult times."

"Excellent for the @Conservatives, showing @RishiSunak will fight the election on the centre ground. Bravo."

Hancock is not the only one who is glad to see such an experienced politician return to the fold, with former prime minister Theresa May tweeting: "Congratulations to @David_Cameron on his return to government.

"His immense experience on the international stage will be invaluable at this time of great uncertainty in our world. Looking forward to working together again!"

Cameron's appointment is likely to be controversial as many ardent Remainers are still angry at the former prime minister - a self-proclaimed Remainer - calling the Brexit referendum that his side would go on to lose.

Others are uneasy with the fact that having resigned as an MP after the 2016 referendum result, he has been made a lord in order for him to fill a ministerial position.

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Hancock's praise of Cameron may not be seen as a ringing endorsement, with the former health secretary becoming unpopular with the public after he was found to have broken the Covid social distancing rules he imposed on the country during the pandemic.

More recently, his reputation has taken a beating in the Covid inquiry, which heard how top civil servant Lord Sedwill urged Boris Johnson to sack him to “to save lives and protect the NHS”.

Cameron has received praise from some people who've managed to keep hold of their Cabinet roles, however, with transport secretary Mark Harper describing his appointment as "an excellent move".

“I was in David Cameron’s government as his chief whip. He’s a team player, hugely experienced," the minister said.

“Given the challenges facing us with the war in Ukraine (and) what’s going on in the Middle East, having a really experienced person coming in as foreign secretary, I think, is an excellent move. He’s a real team player and I look forward to seeing him around the Cabinet table.”

Former prime minister David Cameron leaving Downing Street, central London after being appointed Foreign Secretary and will be made a peer, No 10 said. Picture date: Monday November 13, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
Cameron leaving Downing Street after his appointment (Getty Images)

When was David Cameron made a lord?

Some are uncomfortable that Cameron, who resigned as MP for Witney in 2016, can be appointed to such a major Cabinet position despite being unaccountable to the electorate.

In order for Sunak to do this, he had to give Cameron a lifelong peerage in the House of Lords, whose members can also serve in the Cabinet.

Confirming Cameron's appointment in a statement on Monday, Number 10 said: "The King has been pleased to approve the appointment of the Rt Hon David Cameron as secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs.

"His Majesty has also been pleased to confer the dignity of a Barony of the United Kingdom for life upon David Cameron. The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP remains as Chancellor of the Exchequer."

Read more: How can David Cameron be a minister when he isn't an MP and what is his salary?

Criticising the move, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "How are elected MPs to directly question a Foreign Sec who can’t stand at Commons dispatch box?

"Are major foreign policy statements to be made in unelected House of Lords now? This is unacceptable degrading of key office of state and Commons must have primacy."

The Electoral Reform Society, which wants to replace the Lords with a smaller elected chamber, added: "No Prime Minister should be able to appoint anyone they like to the major offices of state, simply by making them a Lord."

What does the foreign secretary do?

The foreign secretary has overall responsibility for the work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Some of Cameron's main responsibilities in his new role will include managing relations with foreign countries and governments, promoting British interests abroad and handling matters related to Commonwealth countries and UK overseas territories.

The foreign secretary is also responsible for the work of GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) - also known as MI6 - while the home secretary is responsible for the Security Service (MI5).

Who was the previous foreign secretary?

Before Cameron, the previous foreign secretary was James Cleverly, who is now stepping into Suella Braverman's role as home secretary.

On Monday Sunak sacked Braverman, who was accused of stoking tensions with inflammatory rhetoric, which was blamed for clashes between police, pro-Palestine protesters and far-right counter-demonstrators in London over the weekend.

Cleverly faces a number of challenges in his new job, including an imminent ruling on the lawfulness of the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, and will have to deal with the fallout if Number 10 loses.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Britain's former Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, leaves 10, Downing Street after being appointed Home Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle on November 13, 2023 in London, England. Rishi Sunak came under pressure last week to sack Suella Braverman after she wrote an article criticising the Met Police over Pro-Palestinian Marches which was not signed off by Downing Street. At the weekend, several far-right protestors were arrested after confrontations at the Cenotaph during the Armistice Day service.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Former foreign secretary James Cleverly leaves 10 after being appointed home secretary in Rishi Sunak's Cabinet re-shuffle (Getty Images)

In a statement on X, in which he did not congratulate Cameron for taking his old job, Cleverly said: "It is an honour to be appointed as home secretary. The goal is clear. My job is to keep people in this country safe."

Cameron will face a number of global crises demanding his attention as he steps into his new role, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

As recently as Thursday, Cleverly was in Saudi Arabia discussing efforts to prevent fighting in Gaza escalating into a wider regional conflict, with Middle Eastern foreign ministers, and Cameron will face an immediate task of carrying on that diplomatic effort.

Meanwhile Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned of a “winter onslaught” from Russia that will require further support from the West.