UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seems to have found himself in the soup after he appointed former PM David Cameron as the foreign secretary in the recent UK cabinet reshuffle. Sunak also sacked Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman, an outspoken right-winger, and replaced her with James Cleverly. The move has prompted several Conservatives to question Sunak’s political direction.
‘No confidence letter’ a threat to Rishi Sunak?
One Tory lawmaker was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that Sunak will be safe unless the right can unify behind a candidate. “And even then, they would struggle to defeat the premier in a confidence vote,” the report added.
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Meanwhile, around 80 to 100 MPs within the party are seen as right-wing Sunak sceptics, Bloomberg reported. They are split into factions, and that estimate includes 50 who are strongly behind Truss and only about 10 who are primarily loyal to Braverman, the report added.
Under party rules, 53 MPs would be required to write letters of no confidence in the prime minister to trigger a vote on his leadership.
But, here’s how Rishi Sunak may have already gotten into trouble
1. David’s appointment: Right-wing Vs Centrist
By choosing Cameron as a Cabinet minister and ousting Braverman, Sunak might have gotten into a trouble with the Tory right (A Tory is a member or supporter of the Conservative Party.)
With the decision, the prime minister has “risked deepening divisions among his MPs” — between the “centrist Tory MPs” and “Brexit backers on the right of the party”, the BBC reported.
According to Reuters, Cameron’s appointment on Monday delighted the centrist wing of the ruling Conservative Party. And therefore, these moves by Sunak are viewed as “signs (that) Sunak is shifting towards the centre ground (and away from the right)”, the Financial Express reported.
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This alarmed some on the right of the party. Members of Parliament on the right of the Conservative Party reportedly spent Monday plotting their response to Camron’s appointment.
“One said the right had been purged from Sunak’s government. Another said options under discussion included an attempt to remove Sunak from office before the election, the formalizing of a Tea Party-style caucus to challenge government policies, and even the formation of a breakaway party that could work with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage,” Bloomberg reported.
Notably, it was just a month ago that Sunak had completely distanced himself from Cameron’s government, telling his party conference he was the man to change what he described as 30 years of an inefficient “political status quo”.
Now, for critics of Sunak, the appointment of someone whose policies he has criticised — and who in return has been dismissive of his own leadership — was a desperate act to resurrect his ailing government, Reuters reported.
“He’s not moving us to the centre, he’s moving to the left,” said one pro-Brexit former minister, surveying the line-up of the reshuffled team.
In what is seen as an effort to counter such claims, Sunak brought back right-winger Esther McVey as a minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office.
2.Suella Braverman is popular
A foreign policy analyst, Nile Gardiner, said on Monday that the sacking of Suella Braverman will “further weaken the Conservative Government” and “strengthen the Left”. Braverman was popular on the right of the Conservative Party and a key player in Sunak’s rise to power in 2022.
Sunak had arrived in Downing Street in October 2022 after striking a deal with the right of his party. His decision to appoint Braverman as his first home secretary was part of the deal that saw her back his leadership bid. That pact now seems to be in tatters, the Financial Express reported.
And now, Braverman was no longer believed to be a threat to Sunak. A Downing Street official said keeping Braverman in her post would have signalled that it was OK to defy Sunak. The official added that Sunak’s aides calculated that Braverman didn’t have enough support among Tory MPs to challenge his leadership.
It is quite clear that Rishi Sunak has opened a Tory split that could dog him all the way to a UK general election in the comming years.
Centrist Conservative lawmakers believe Cameron will help the party win back voters who have been put off by its more populist recent right-wing turn. However, he remains a “divisive figure, even within his party, for the way he had handled the (2016) Brexit referendum,” the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said if the Conservatives are trying to abandon the “nasty party right-wingism that’s been their recent strategy and appeal to the blue wall”, it may be less successful.
This is because, “Cameron will have little chance to shape either environmental or immigration policy, even assuming he wanted to,” he was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
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