Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Braverman out, Lord Cameron in: the key moments of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet relaunch

At around 8.45 this morning, Rishi Sunak did what many had thought likely for some time and sacked Suella Braverman as his home secretary.

Braverman was accused of stoking tension ahead of protests in London on Saturday in an article for the Times newspaper; worse still, the controversial comments were not entirely signed off by No 10. Downing Street later confirmed that it had proposed amendments to the op-ed which were not accepted by the home secretary’s team. 

At around 9.15 am, Braverman issued a statement, saying: “it has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as home secretary”.

“I will have more to say in due course”, she added. 

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At around the same time Braverman‘s departure was confirmed, circa 8.40 am, foreign secretary James Cleverly was seen entering No 10. Rumours abounded that he would be replacing Braverman as home secretary.

The move was to be confirmed an hour later at 9.40 am. 

As speculation swirled as to who would be filling Cleverly’s much-coveted Foreign Office brief, former prime minister David Cameron exited a vehicle on Downing Street just before 9.00 am. 

At 10.00 am, what would have been unthinkable a mere hour or so prior, happened. David Cameron was confirmed as the new foreign secretary, replacing Cleverly in the role. 

The move makes Cameron just the second former prime minister since the second world war to return to cabinet. His only post-war forebear is Alec Douglas-Home, prime minister from 1963 to 1964. Douglas-Home also became foreign secretary, serving under Edward Heath from 1970 to 1974.

David Cameron becomes just second former PM to return to cabinet since WW2

At around 10.17 am, then-environment secretary Therese Coffey entered No 10. After disappearing behind No 10’s famous black door, no news was heard on Coffey’s future for a further two and a half hours. 

At 10.23 am, David Cameron posted a statement to his X account. A notable passage read: “Though I may have disagreed with some individual 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”.

Circa 10.50 am, it was announced that King Charles III had awarded David Cameron a peerage. No 10 confirmed that the King was “pleased to confer the dignity of a Barony of the United Kingdom for life upon David Cameron”.

By this time, junior ministers were beginning to announce they were returning to the backbenches. Former health minister Will Quince, who had already stated his intention to stand down at the next election, wrote to the prime minister: “Having taken the decision to stand down at the General Election and having recently joined the Army as a Specialist Reserve Officer, now feels like the right time to leave HM Government”.

Earlier, long-serving schools minister Nick Gibb and health minister Nick O’Brien both announced they would be leaving government. 

A lull followed as SW1 considered the events which had just unfolded. Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, was a notable critic. Reacting to Sunak’s decision to appoint Lord Cameron to the role of Foreign Secretary, he argued that the UK is “not a serious country”.

Lord Heseltine, a former long-serving cabinet minister, described Cameron’s elevation as “excellent”. He told Times Radio that the elevation of Lord Cameron was a “signal” that the Conservative Party’s “lurch” to the right had been “put to bed”.

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At around 12.40 pm, then-health secretary Steve Barclay was spotted walking into No 10 Downing Street. 

A few minutes later it was confirmed that Coffey had resigned as environment secretary. Given she had entered No 10 through the front entrance, it is likely she was offered a job, but declined during the following two hours of negotiations. 

Her resignation statement read: “Having been a minister since July 2014, and having served all five Conservative prime ministers, I consider it is now the right time to step back from government.”

She added: “I look forward to supporting you from the backbenches and working together for a Conservative majority at the next election, which I believe to be profoundly in the national interest.”

Reshuffle latest: Steve Barclay replaces Thérèse Coffey as environment secretary

Just before 1.00 pm, former housing minister Rachel Maclean confirmed she had been “asked to step down”.

She wrote on X: “I’ve been asked to step down from my role as Housing Minister. Disappointed and was looking forward to introducing the Renters Reform Bill to Committee tomorrow and later the Leasehold and Freehold Bill. 

“It has been a privilege to hold the position and I wish my successor well”.

At around the same time, then-roads minister Richard Holden arrived in Downing Street. He was closely followed by then-financial secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins, and then-work and pensions minister Laura Trott. All three had for some time been hotly-tipped for a promotion. 

As the PM’s allies sauntered into No 10, his critics were beginning to notice a pattern. Deploying a tortured footballing analogy, Liz Truss loyalist and former cabinet minister Simon Clarke wrote on X: “Some controversial choices here from the manager, putting it very mildly.  Never wise to lack options on the right wing – the squad risks being badly unbalanced”.

At 2.00 pm, Steve Barclay was confirmed to be the man replacing Therese Coffey as environment secretary. It was soon announced that Victoria Atkins would replace him as the secretary of state for health. 

At 2.15 pm, it emerged that Richard Holden, formerly the roads minister at the Department for Transport, was the new Conservative Party chair — replacing Greg Hands. Hands was later confirmed to be returning to his old role as a trade minister. He said he was“disappointed” to have lost his job as the chairman of the Conservative Party.

Laura Trott was confirmed to be the new chief secretary the Treasury, replacing John Glen, at around 2.30 pm. 

At this exact time, the House of Commons began its day’s sitting. But before business could get underway, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle issued a statement, seeming to rebuke the government’s decision to appoint David Cameron, now a member of the House of Lords, as foreign secretary. 

He told MPs: “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, this is especially important that this House is able to scrutinise the work of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office effectively”. 

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At around 4.15 pm, Lee Rowley was confirmed to have been appointed the 16th housing minister in the past 13 years, replacing Rachel Maclean.

A statement from No 10 read: “The King has been pleased to approve the appointment of Lee Rowley MP as a Minister of State (Minister for Housing) in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.”

At around 17.00 pm, with the bulk of the reshuffle complete, the new foreign secretary Lord Cameron spoke to Sky News. 

He said: “Well I know it’s not usual for a prime minister to come back in this way but I believe in public service.

“The prime minister asked me to do this job and it’s a time where we have some daunting challenges as a country, the conflict in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine”.

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