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Rishi Sunak has sacked Suella Braverman, the controversial home secretary, after she defied the prime minister’s authority last week, as the he launched a major reshuffle of his top team.
In further developments on Monday morning, former prime minister David Cameron was seen entering Downing Street at about 9am, triggering speculation he could be given a ministerial role, perhaps foreign secretary.
A return of Cameron to the political frontline would be a dramatic twist as he has played little role in politics since quitting in the wake of the Brexit referendum No vote in 2016.
Cameron is neither an MP nor a member of the House of Lords, although he could swiftly be made a peer. Conservative MPs speculated foreign secretary James Cleverly could replace Braverman at the Home Office.
Cameron, Tory prime minister from 2010-16, was recently at the centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in Britain for decades when the FT revealed he had secretly lobbied former colleagues in government on behalf of his employer Greensill Capital.
Braverman’s sacking will provoke a backlash from some rightwing Tory MPs, but Sunak’s allies believe the political fallout can be contained. “She hasn’t got an army behind her,” said one ally of the prime minister.
The changes in Sunak’s cabinet are likely to be the British premier’s final chance to stamp his authority on the Conservative party’s leadership team ahead of a general election expected next year.
The home secretary was sacked after she wrote an article last week accusing the police of bias. Downing Street said it had not “been cleared”. Braverman’s allies on Sunday night described Number 10 as “clowns”.
The acrimonious nature of her departure suggests Braverman may now mount a campaign for a future Tory leadership bid from the backbenches, backed by members of the rightwing Common Sense Group of Tory MPs.
The Supreme Court will rule on Wednesday on her plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. If it is deemed unlawful, Braverman will probably renew her calls for Britain to quit the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Rishi Sunak has asked Suella Braverman to leave government and she has accepted,” Downing Street said on Monday morning, as Sunak began the task of reshaping his government.
Braverman said: “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as home secretary. I will have more to say in due course.”
Sunak will portray the moves as a chance to promote younger ministers and clear out some underperforming members of the cabinet ahead of an election expected near year.
“Today Rishi Sunak strengthens his team in government to deliver long-term decisions for a brighter future,” the Conservative party said on social media platform X.
Thérèse Coffey, environment secretary, and Steve Barclay, health secretary, are among ministers tipped for the sack. Laura Trott, pensions minister, and Richard Holden, transport minister, are among those tipped for promotion.
Braverman’s sacking comes after she prompted widespread anger with her comments on rough sleeping being a “lifestyle choice” and criticism of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests in recent days.
It also comes just 13 months after she was forced to resign from the same job by former prime minister Liz Truss for a technical security breach in which she used her personal email to send information relating to government business.