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Great Britain: the shadow of China looms over David Cameron’s inauguration as chancellor

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is preparing to fight the British general election with a new cabinet. and a surprise: the incorporation of a centrist, pro-European and former prime minister, conservative David Cameron.

It was one of Westminster’s best kept secrets. A week ago, David Cameron met Rishi Sunak at his Downing Street apartment to discuss the future. Sunak, who is struggling to recover from Labour’s lead in the polls, had a simple proposal: Would Cameron like to return to the frontline of politics as foreign secretary? It was the result of fine work by another former Tory chancellor and former party leader: William Hague. He was convinced that The civil war within conservatism had to be neutralized.

After canvassing his closest political allies, Cameron, whose seven years in the wilderness have been plagued by controversy, agreed and signed on Thursday. Remarkably, especially for the Sunak government, the news remained a secret until Cameron entered Downing Street shortly after 8.30am on Monday. A cameraman yelled at his reporter, in the rain, on the morning of the cabinet change: “Look, he’s back!”

Cameron returned to Sunak’s cabinet table for the first time in 7 years.

According to allies of both, the goal is for Cameron to have a second chance to shape his legacy, while Sunak benefits from the former prime minister’s political clout, both within the Conservative Party and on the international stage.

“Everyone at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is delighted”said a senior government figure. “Having a former prime minister as foreign secretary is every diplomat’s dream. “It gives the department enormous influence in Whitehall and increases the UK’s influence on the world stage.” Asked what Cameron’s appointment said about Sunak, they replied: “It shows we are serious about winning the next election.”

Sunak intends to delegate much of the high-level diplomatic work to Cameron so he can focus on Downing St..

But whatever the advantages, Cameron’s appointment carries significant risks. Sunak has spent the last six months presenting himself as the candidate of change, in an attempt to neutralize Labour’s core electoral narrative.

David Cameron and Andrew Mitchell. Photo Bloomber

Naming Cameron, Sunak runs the risk of playing into the hands of Labor and his claim that his administration is just the latest incarnation of 13 years of Conservative rule. Sunak’s allies reject this, arguing that appointing Cameron is a bold move, showing “political imagination” and skill.

Old friends

As Cameron took his seat on Tuesday for his first cabinet meeting in seven years, There were familiar faces around the least some of whom sat in the back of the room when they worked as his assistants.

Jeremy Hunt was Cameron’s first culture secretary. Michael Gove, his education secretary, Grant Shapps, his party chairman and Mark Harper, his chief whip. Andrew Mitchell, who will replace Cameron in the House of Commons as minister for international development, held the same position, although as secretary of state between 2010 and 2012. Sunak’s cabinet has a striking degree of continuity with the pre-Brexit Conservative Party.

Sunak’s critics say he has chosen a side, appointing moderate centrists at the expense of those on the right.

David Cameron’s extensive relationship with China will come under intense scrutiny. Britain’s new chancellor will face calls to fully disclose its financial interests linked to Beijing.

On Monday afternoon, hours after Cameron took office, parliamentary questions had been raised about his decision to promote a Chinese-funded port in Sri Lanka. It has raised concerns that Beijing would gain a significant foothold in the Indo-Pacific. Cameron faces calls to declare how much he was paid.

John Penrose said that Cameron would have to “get rid” of its commitments to any Chinese company to be able to “operate with clean hands”.

Cameron takes over the Foreign Office at a difficult time, amid alarm over Beijing’s growing aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait and concerns about prolific espionage activities in the UK.

Last month, Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, said that economic espionage presented the greatest threat to the interests of the United Kingdom since the Cold War.

As prime minister, Cameron’s stance towards China was noticeably warmer, heralding a “golden era” in relations with Beijing in 2015, when he hosted President Xi on a state visit. Rishi Sunak described his positioning last year as naive.

After leaving office, Cameron became vice-chairman of the £1bn China-UK investment fund, which ultimately struggled to get off the ground due to rising tensions. However, in July, the parliamentary intelligence and security committee questioned whether Cameron’s role was “in any part designed by the Chinese state to lend credibility to Chinese investment, as well as the Chinese brand more generally.”

The departure of the Minister of the Interior

However, if not for Cameron’s appointment, the headlines would have been dominated by Sunak’s decision to fire Interior Minister Suella Braverman.

The decision was the culmination of months of concern at 10 Downing St over the Home Secretary’s rhetoric and suggestions that she “jumped through” on policy. Those concerns came to light again last week, when she suggested that sleeping on the street It was a “lifestyle choice” for some people.

A day later came the last straw when an article by Braverman about the surveillance of the weekend protest marches was published in The Times, without the full authorization of Downing Street.

When she was fired as Minister of the Interior yesterday, before 9 in the morning, Suella Braverman said in a brief statement that would have “more to say in due time.”

Less than 48 hours later, he launched a scathing attack on Rishi Sunak and his government.

In a public letter, she accuses him of breaking an explicit agreement they made (which was not publicly known) to bring him to power, after the collapse of the Truss government last year.

It also accuses him of betraying the British people by not doing enough to stop small boat crossings from France. He describes him as “insecure, weak and lacking the leadership qualities this country needs.” Caste war between two officials of Indian origin.

The battle for the leadership of Suella Braverman’s far-right has just begun.

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