Last week, Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle brought the widely expected confirmation of Suella Braverman’s sacking. Less expected was the appointment of David Cameron as Foreign Secretary, via an elevation to the House of Lords (as Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton).
Cameron’s return to frontline politics, after seven years in the wilderness, was greeted with surprise. His career away from politics has been at times controversial, namely through his connections with the disgraced businessman Lex Greensill and his business dealings in China.
Nevertheless, the return of an undoubtedly high-profile figure in the Conservative Party to the Cabinet has been welcomed by many Conservative MPs.
Last week, following Cameron’s appointment, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked British voters about their views on his appointment, whether they thought he would do a good or bad job, and, perhaps most interestingly, how they view, with the benefit of hindsight, Cameron’s years as Prime Minister.
For starters, Britons are split on his appointment as Foreign Secretary: 28% support his appointment and 26% oppose it. However, most voters have responded to the news with indifference, with as many as 46% saying they either don’t know (8%) or neither support nor oppose (38%) his appointment.
A plurality of 35% believe Cameron will do a bad job as Foreign Secretary, against 26% who think he will do a good job.
Conservative voters at the last election are evenly split when it comes to their expectations of how he will perform, with 35% each saying he will do a good or a bad job.
Cameron’s return to the Cabinet makes him the first former Prime Minister to return to the Cabinet in a more junior ministerial office since Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1970.
Looking back, voters give Cameron’s time as Prime Minister broadly negative reviews.
A plurality of 29% of Britons believe David Cameron achieved nothing at all as Prime Minister. A further 28% believe he accomplished a slight amount.
Only 11% think he achieved a significant amount during his six years in office, while 21% think he accomplished a fair amount.
58% most associate David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister with the Brexit referendum. 25% most associate the Cameron era with austerity measures, while 21% name the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014.
The Brexit referendum, and the victory for the ‘Leave’ campaign, precipitated Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister and departure from frontline politics.
Overall, 31% say Cameron left the United Kingdom worse off when he left office compared to how it was when he first became Prime Minister in 2010. 24% say the country was better off, while 32% think it was neither better nor worse off.
However, when asked if the UK is better or worse off currently than it was when David Cameron resigned, 46% say it is worse off, against only 13% who think it is better off.
Cameron’s return allows Rishi Sunak to concentrate more narrowly on domestic politics, ahead of the General Election next year. But Cameron’s return also reminds voters about the promises and failures of his time as Prime Minister, and of the sheer length of time the current Conservative Government has spent in office.
Given the poll situation his Government faces, and his own (unconvincing) attempts to cast himself as the candidate who can deliver “change” at the next election, placing Cameron in such a high profile position within his Government is a risky strategy for Rishi Sunak.