How has David Cameron been able to return to government as foreign secretary?

It has been more than 50 years since a former PM has come back to serve in the cabinet.

Even more rare is to have on of the great offices of state served by someone in the House of Lords, Romilly Weeks reports on David Cameron's journey back to frontline politics

Words by James Gray, Multimedia Producer

David Cameron has sensationally returned to government after a Cabinet reshuffle saw him appointed as foreign secretary.

The former prime minister's return comes after James Cleverly was moved to become home secretary, replacing the outgoing Suella Braverman.

Rishi Sunak carried out the rejig of his Cabinet in response to comments made by Ms Braverman, which criticised the Metropolitan Police for the way it allowed pro-Palestinian protests to take place on Armistice Day.

But having quit as an MP more than seven years ago, how is the prime minister able to appoint Mr Cameron to the Cabinet position?

David Cameron quit as an MP more than seven years ago. Credit: PA

Who is David Cameron?

Mr Cameron is a British politician who is best known for serving as UK prime minister between 2010 and 2016.

He was elected as the MP for Witney, Oxfordshire, in 2001, and assumed leadership of the Conservative Party just over four years later.

After serving in opposition for five years, he led the Conservatives to victory at the 2010 general election and formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Aided by his then chancellor George Osborne, he embarked on an austerity programme that saw deep cuts to public services and welfare spending.

He floated new ideas such as the "Big Society", while attempting to grapple with unrest and conflict in Libya and Syria.

Mr Cameron's foreign policy was also marked by his hopes for a new "golden era" of relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping - remarks that have not aged well as ties between the two nations have deteriorated over the past decade.

In 2015, he secured a second term as prime minister - this time with a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

However, little more than a year into this he tendered his resignation as prime minister, after the 'Leave' result was declared in the 2016 referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union (EU).

David Cameron speaking at the launch of the Conservative Party manifesto in 2015. Credit: PA

What has he done since?

Following his spell as prime minster, Mr Cameron left government altogether, largely maintaining a low-public profile.

In 2019, he became embroiled in a lobbying scandal, where he was accused of using his influence on behalf of a now-collapsed financial services company.

Mr Cameron was reported to have made millions of pounds through shares he held in Greensill Capital - a firm he was also paid a salary by after leaving No 10.

That same year he released a memoir based on his time as prime minister, pulling back the curtain on some of the decisions taken by his government.

More recently, Mr Cameron gave evidence at the Covid inquiry, where he defended his government's preparation for a pandemic.

Is he currently an MP?

No. Mr Cameron quit his role as an MP shortly after his premiership as prime minister ended.

He had previously been the parliamentary representative for Witney for more than 15 years.

David Cameron pictured with his wife Samantha (left) and Michelle Obama outside Downing Street in 2015. Credit: PA

How can he become a Cabinet minister?

In theory, you do not have to be a member of either House of Parliament - House of Commons or House of Lords - to become a government minister - for example foreign secretary - the House of Commons Library says.

But in practice there is a general convention that ministers must be members of either house, so that they can be held accountable to Parliament.

The prime minister has decided - as has been done previously - to appoint Mr Cameron to the House of Lords to get around this issue.

For example, in 2019 Nicky Morgan continued to serve as culture secretary, despite having relinquished her role as an MP following that year's general election.

As a member of the House of Lords, she continued to serve in the role until February 2020.

Has this happened before?

Yes. Mr Cameron is the 15th former prime minister to serve in a later government led by someone else.

Post Second World War, Alec Douglas-Home went on to serve as foreign secretary six years after his term as prime minister ended.

He held the position between 1970 and 1974, but was both a serving MP and House of Lords member when he was appointed.

In earlier years, Arthur Balfour, who served as prime minister from 1902 until 1905, came back to government in the roles of the first lord of the admiralty in the wartime coalition, and then foreign secretary under David Lloyd George.

During the Second World War, Neville Chamberlain, who was succeeded by Sir Winston Churchill, went on to serve as lord president of the council in his Cabinet.

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