Sunak comes up trumps. But they can be beaten too


Chris J. Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

Generally, this reshuffling of the deck in the government was expected back in September, well, or early October. This would mean that, according to the Conservatives’ logic, general elections should be held before the end of this year. To appoint new, fresh, popular politicians and go to the polls with this team.

By law, the prime minister has a fairly comfortable margin of time regarding the elections — he can schedule them at any time, as far back as January 2025. But no one was going to delay, the polls were thoroughly analyzed and therefore everyone was oriented more towards the spring of 2024. Then Britain’s economic prospects and the timing of its recovery from the inflation crisis will become clearer.

It is not very profitable for the Conservatives to change key members of the cabinet now, because the very idea of renewal, appointment of new ministers who will have time to bore the public in six months or a year, is not very promising. It is necessary to wait for positive dynamics in the economy and on this wave to set the date of elections.

Everything happened instantly. Home Office Secretary Suella Braverman wrote a column in The Times, where she seriously criticized her own police, who do not work hard enough at pro-Palestinian demonstrations and miss blatant provocations. You know, «migration storm», «refugee invasion», «hate march», and other terms not very pleasant to European ears.

In general, in Western Europe, this is a very painful topic right now. Well, if Marine Le Pen participated in a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Paris, the scale of the phenomenon is roughly understandable. In the Paris subway, teenagers shout clearly anti-Semitic speeches, they are arrested, given «two years», and their peers draw Stars of David on houses where Jews live. It’s the same in England. And Germany.

Braverman is the right wing of the most right-wing conservatives. To the point of radicalism. An ardent Euroskeptic. She’s already been sacked, by the way, if you remember, from the Liz Truss government. Sunak appointed her to a key position to cement and demonstrate his conservative beliefs to the party.

And now the prime minister has decided to thank the minister for her services to the government. The experienced head of British diplomacy, James Cleverly, has been moved to take her place at the Home Office, and former Prime Minister David Cameron has been appointed to the Foreign Office.

This came as a surprise to absolutely everyone.

In 2013, he initiated the Brexit referendum, which was held three years later. But he also hoped that Britain would end up staying in the EU, and he lost. Both the party and the state ended up taking a long time to come to their senses after the referendum result, and still haven’t, as it turns out.

Cameron is more of a centrist and his appointment as foreign minister shows that Sunak decides to weaken the extreme right wing of the Tories and turn towards the center to win back votes from the doubters.

«Rishi Sunak has set a course for a return to more moderate politics,» says Laetitia Langlois, professor of problems of British civilization at the Angers Institute in France. — «His return to more moderate figures in the political sphere is a clear signal of his shift toward the center and away from populist rhetoric. And most likely a refusal to debate with the right wing of the Tories — he doesn’t seem to want them».

It’s basically such a poker move. The Prime Minister is forced to sack Braverman so as not to generate a wave of protests after her article. He appoints a completely unpopular and forgotten person, who, in fact, provoked the whole Brexit, upset England with its neighbors and brought it to a rupture. Well, at least he created problems — that’s for sure.

«David Cameron is associated by most English people with the completely negative outcome of his rule», analyzes Thibaut Arrois, a professor at the Sorbonne University. — «A significant part of the British consider him specifically guilty of having to austerity, and government spending on social benefits has been significantly cut».

Further-more. Braverman’s dismissal was seen in the Conservative ranks almost as an insult. Several MPs in the House of Commons have even promised to resign if she leaves the government. The fact is that Braverman is considered a potential candidate to replace Sunak if he loses the general election in the spring.

And that is possible. Polls to date suggest the Conservatives will suffer a crushing defeat. Hence the idea of delaying the government shake-up and postponing the election.

The prime minister has chosen some very urgent option, which will extinguish one fire now, but surely a new one will break out soon. It is not excluded that now even Suella Braverman will create her opposition wing and then everything will be very interesting.