David Cameron says he is aware it is 'not usual' for a PM to return
In a truly baffling turn of events, former Prime Minister David Cameron has made a return to frontline politics (by becoming a lord in order to serve as foreign secretary) and seemingly forgotten about his previous comments about parliament’s upper chamber.
Sharing a lengthy statement to Twitter/X, Cameron said he hopes his political experience will “assist me in helping the prime minister” to meet “vital challenges”.
He continued: “Though I may have disagreed with some initial decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable prime minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time.
“I want to help him to deliver the security and prosperity our country needs.”
The Prime Minister has asked me to serve as his Foreign Secretary and I have gladly accepted.\n\nWe are facing a daunting set of international challenges, including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East. At this time of profound global change, it has rarely been more\u2026
The move is despite Cameron previously voicing criticisms of the unelected chamber, going so far as to have his government put forward the House of Lords Reform Bill in 2012 to push for elected representatives in the Lords – draft legislation which didn’t go further than the second reading following a Tory rebellion.
In a foreword to the Bill from Cameron and then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the pair write: “In a modern democracy it is important that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those to whom those laws apply.
“The House of Lords performs its work well but lacks sufficient democratic authority.
“The House of Lords and its existing members have served the country with distinction. However, reform of the House of Lords has been on the agenda for more than 100 years and many governments have considered the complex issues which surround it but full reform has not yet been achieved.”
In a Commons debate in May 2012, Cameron responded to a question from Hereford and Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman about reform to the House of Lords and said: “I think [a partly, or mainly, elected House of Lords] is possible, and it would be a good reform if we could achieve it; it would be better if we had a smaller House of Lords and an elected element.”
It's a bit awkward, then, that Cameron’s new job as foreign secretary sees him hold one of the four great offices of state without being elected as an MP first, meaning the Commons will be unable to scrutinise his performance in the role and his policies, save for those serving on Commons committees.
And that issue has sparked consternation from both Conservative and opposition MPs alike, as well as rival political parties:
David Cameron is the Austerity Prime Minister who led the disastrous bombing of Libya before being embroiled in the Greensill lobbying scandal.\n\nHe's an unelected Etonian who shouldn't be anywhere near government.\n\nThis really is the Tories scraping the barrel.
\ud83e\udd2f Our unelected prime minister has just installed an unelected former prime minister, David Cameron, as Foreign Secretary.\n\n\ud83d\udc9a It's time for a #GeneralElectionNow
The fact that David Cameron, who oversaw the biggest foreign policy blunder of a generation, is the best the Tories have to offer tells you all you need to know.\n\nThe unelected Foreign Secretary has already done enough damage through Brexit and austerity.
David Cameron was a disastrous PM. This is a last gasp act of desperation from a government devoid of talent and ideas. \n\nAmid international crisis, Sunak has chosen an unelected failure from the past who MPs cannot even hold to account. \n\nOnly Labour offers the change we need.
So \u201cBaron Cameron\u201d becomes another unelected senior member of Government. This clapped out Tory party is clinging on to power with total disregard for democracy. \nIt\u2019s time for the British public to deliver their mandate on who they want to run the country. #GeneralElectionNow
Fair to say David Cameron's return is not universally popular - Tory right is furious over his return as foreign sec & James Cleverly's appointment as home sec\n\nOne Tory MP's caustic assessment: 'How is it right that an unelected PM appoints an unelected foreign secretary?'
Cameron will bring much needed heft to the role of Foreign Secretary. But, while not unknown in the past, the appointment of someone not an MP means he will not be accountable to MPs in the House of Commons Chamber. Many will question this.
The issue was also addressed by Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle on Monday, saying in a statement to the House that he has “commissioned advice from the clerks” around “possible options” to scrutinise the work of someone from the Lords.
“This is not the first time in recent years that a cabinet minister has been appointed in the House of Lords but, given the gravity of the current international situation, it is especially important that this House is able to scrutinise the work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office effectively.
“I also look forward to hearing the Government’s proposals on how the Foreign Secretary will be properly accountable to this House,” he said.