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Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary – despite having left Parliament in 2016 – has triggered fresh calls to abolish the House of Lords.
Cameron replaces James Cleverly, who has moved to ousted cabinet minister Suella Braverman’s former role of Home Secretary.
There is no constitutional requirement for a cabinet minister to be an elected MP, but it is very rare that senior offices of state are held by unelected politicians. Lobbyist Cameron has been handed a seat in the 800-odd member House of Lords for life to take up the role.
Today campaign group Republic demanded a written constitution and elected upper house following the move.
Republic’s CEO, Graham Smith, said: “This appointment joins a string of recent outrages that remind us of the urgent need to ditch the Lords in favour of an elected upper house.
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“The whole point of a parliamentary system is that the Government is drawn from those we’ve elected to parliament. Cabinet ministers must come from the Commons, where they can be held accountable by our elected representatives.”
“If Cameron wants to return to cabinet he should seek election to parliament, not be parachuted in by a prime minister desperate to shore up his unpopular Government.”
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP also hit out at the move, saying bringing back a “scandal-hit, unelected former Prime Minister” who has been criticising Sunak’s Government has the “stench of desperation”.
“There is not even the bottom of the barrel left for Sunak to scrape in the Conservative party.”
David Cameron was at the heart of one of the biggest political scandals of recent years, as he was accused of lobbying for Greensill Capital to secure Government support after leaving office. The firm later went down in flames. A subsequent BBC Panorama investigation claimed that through his salary and share sales, Cameron earned around $10 million before tax for just 30 months of part-time work. The former PM has claimed his lobbying on Greensill’s behalf did not break rules.
“Handing him a peerage makes a mockery of our honours system. Cameron’s peerage should be blocked given his shady past,” Moran said. On Monday afternoon, No 10 confirmed that Cameron’s appointment went through the usual House of Lords Appointments Commission vetting – but it’s not clear if the independent body raised concerns about the former lobbyist.
Co-leader of the Green Party, Adrian Ramsay, noted that David Cameron started the programme of cuts to UK public services which has “now brought the NHS to near breaking point.”
“He has cashed in on dodgy lobbying for global oligarchs. And on the odd occasion where Cameron did take a principled stand – such as on maintaining the international aid budget – the Government has since reneged,” he added.
Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain described Cameron’s appointment as “another Tory VIP lane, only this time for unelected has-beens.”
“Handing one of the Government’s most prestigious jobs to someone with a prolific record of foreign policy failure and lobbying scandal shows Sunak is not just out of ideas, he is out of support from among his own MPs. He should call an election now,” she said.
SNP Westminster Deputy Leader Mhairi Black MP branded Cameron the “architect of thirteen years of Tory austerity cuts, and the disastrous Brexit referendum”.
The Electoral Reform Society has relaunched its petition demanding an elected second chamber following the move. Darren Hughes, its chief executive, told supporters: “David Cameron was appointed as Foreign Secretary – but he’s not been an MP since 2016…Once again we are seeing our political honours system for what it is – nothing more than a grubby giveaway for political allies.
“No Prime Minister should be able to appoint anyone they like to the major offices of state, simply by making them a Lord. However long David Cameron serves in this role, he will be able to sit in the House of Lords for life.”
Cameron’s House of Lords pass will give him “potentially unfettered access to our politicians” for life after he leaves his role of Foreign Secretary. “A seat in the House of Lords is a lobbyist’s dream,” Hughes noted.
Campaign group 38 Degrees also relaunched its call for a General Election – pointing out that Rishi Sunak has himself not won a General Election – and is now appointing unelected individuals to senior Government positions. “Huge decisions need to be made and we, the British public, deserve our say on what happens next – and who leads us through this crisis,” the group said in an email to backers.
Non-MPs to secure offices of state in recent decades include Andrew Adonis, who was made a peer by Tony Blair to make him Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools and Learners in 2005, and Sir Mark Malloch Brown, who was made a peer to serve as Africa Minister in 2007. Cameron’s appointment appears to be the most significant non-Parliamentary appointment to Cabinet in decades.
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