David cameron

History will judge Rishi Sunak kindly

Memorably sweeping statements tripping easily from the tongue have a habit of worming their way into assumptions we make and ending up as the judgment of history. The word ‘appeasement’ rather than the decisions Neville Chamberlain actually took have consigned the name of a defensible statesman to something approaching a term of abuse. ‘Milk snatcher’ did Margaret Thatcher immense damage. The ‘winter of discontent’ has become too easy a shorthand for the coinciding of deep-seated problems which Thatcher herself approached with great caution. I believe Sunak did a sterling job getting grown-up government back on its feet after Johnson and Truss ‘Dementia tax’ was an expression critically important in the

One damned thing after another: Britain’s crisis-ridden century so far

Asked about the greatest challenges he faced as prime minister, Harold Macmillan is said to have replied: ‘Events, dear boy, events.’ The first quarter of this century has seen no shortage of events that have blown prime ministers off course. There was Tony Blair by 9/11 and the resulting war in Iraq; Gordon Brown by the financial crisis of 2007-8; David Cameron and Theresa May by Brexit; and Boris Johnson by Covid. With the exception of May, none of these people had any inkling, on taking office, of the bolts from the blue that would ultimately define their premierships. The idea behind George Osborne’s austerity cuts, that ‘we were all

What’s really behind the Tories’ present woes?

The problem is, we really need a Tory party. Whether we have one at the moment is another question. Political debate requires a significant and trustworthy proponent of personal freedom, of the limits of government, of personal responsibility, of strict limitations of government expenditure, of independent enterprise which may succeed through a lack of intrusive state control or may fail without hope of public rescue. Not everyone will share those values. But I think everyone should accept that it’s proved catastrophic that those values have apparently disappeared from public policy. History rhymes, but does not repeat itself. The lessons of previous periods when major economic policies of an interventionist sort

Is Cameron upstaging Sunak?

The logic behind Rishi Sunak’s decision to make David Cameron foreign secretary was that he would be a ‘big beast’ on the world stage and wouldn’t need much instruction. Six months on, that plan is going reasonably well, insofar as Cameron appears to be setting his own agenda. It also means he’s making his own mistakes. In February, his foray into US politics misfired when, in an article for the website the Hill, he appeared to lecture Americans about support for Ukraine, telling them not to show the ‘weakness displayed against Hitler’. A key Donald Trump ally, Marjorie Taylor Greene, responded that ‘David Cameron can kiss my ass’. This week,

Why did Mike Johnson snub David Cameron?

24 min listen

Today Freddy is joined by Sarah Elliott, senior advisor for the US-UK special relationship unit at the Legatum Institute. They discuss Lord Cameron’s visit to America this week and the news that speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson snubbed a meeting with the foreign secretary. Is the special relationship still special? 

Can David Cameron charm the Americans?

David Cameron is stateside today as the Foreign Secretary tries to muster up support for the US to send aid to Ukraine. While Cameron plans to discuss other urgent issues on the trip, such as the situation in the Middle East, the priority is to make the argument for the US to step up funding to Ukraine; senior Republicans are accused of blocking a £49 billion package for Kyiv. The push comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Sunday that his side would lose to Putin if American aid was withheld and Ukrainian air cover is not improved. Will the charm offensive work? The last time Cameron tried to

Should Britain end arms sales to Israel?

13 min listen

The row over arms sales to Israel continues today, as over 600 high profile figures in the legal profession, including former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption, sign a petition arguing they believe Israel has breached international law, and more Conservative politicians say, on the record, that they believe the UK must respond with an arms sale ban. Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Isabel Hardman about where this row could go next. Produced by Megan McElroy and Cindy Yu.

Has Israel lost British support?

13 min listen

The killings of three British aid workers in Gaza has caused fury across the board in Westminster, with Rishi Sunak conducting a candid phone call with Benyamin Netanyahu last night. Today, the question is over whether the UK should ban arms sales to Israel in a bid to influence Jerusalem’s hardline approach to Gaza. Has Israel lost the support of the UK, and western countries more widely? James Heale talks to Isabel Hardman and Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at the think tank, Policy Exchange. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Why are the photo agencies punishing Kate?

Media scrutiny of the Princess of Wales and her personal photoshopping of her Mothering Sunday photograph has been intense. One important set of players has escaped attention, however: the picture agencies. It was they – AP, Getty Images, AFP, Reuters, Shutterstock and PA – who issued a ‘mandatory photo kill’ of the image. They doubted what PA called its ‘veracity’. I hope it is not unduly cynical to point out that these agencies hate the fact that HRH distributes her own pictures (without charge). Her homemade pics take the bread out of the agencies’ mouths. Suppose other world figures get the DIY habit: what will become of the professionals then?

Do accents still matter in politics?

14 min listen

The new MP for Kingswood has been under fire for apparently changing his accent over the course of his political career. Does this matter? And if so, what does this tell us about British politics today? Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and author and former cabinet minister, Nadine Dorries. Produced by Cindy Yu and Patrick Gibbons.

How is Cameron’s comeback coming along?

13 min listen

As problems in the Middle East and war on the continent dominate the headlines, David Cameron has been front and centre in his new role as foreign secretary. Is his experience coming in handy? Is he Rishi’s ‘prime minister abroad’?  Katy Balls speaks to Craig Oliver, director of communications at No. 10 during the Cameron era, and Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at Policy Exchange.  Produced by Max Jeffery and Oscar Edmondson. 

Cameron says ‘military action was only option’ in Yemen

David Cameron: western strikes on Houthi rebels are ‘a very clear message’ This week the US and UK launched military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, following repeated Houthi attacks on Red Sea cargo ships. Speaking to Laura Kuenssberg, David Cameron suggested the strikes sent a message that western countries were prepared to ‘follow our words and warnings with actions’. Kuenssberg questioned whether the strikes would have much impact, given the Houthi rebels’ declaration that they will step up their own attacks. Cameron pointed out that Houthi attacks have been escalating since November, and said military action was the only option.  Cameron: South Africa’s genocide case against Israel is ‘nonsense’

Is British support for Israel wavering?

10 min listen

Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps have signalled a shift in the British position towards the Israel-Gaza conflict, suggesting that British support for Israel’s actions may be time-limited. James Heale talks to Katy Balls and Stephen Bush. Produced by Cindy Yu.

No nonsense in the kitchen

I rather bristle at newspaper column collections. They strike me as a bit lazy, a cheat’s way of getting another book under the belt, often just in time for the gift-giving season. When it comes to Rachel Cooke’s Kitchen Person, however, I have to eat my words. It draws from the 14 years of monthly food columns Cooke wrote for the Observer from 2009. Each comes with a postscript from the author looking back on her thoughts at the time, ensuring that the pieces hold their own as a collection, as something cohesive. You sit down to read one essay, and look up 75 pages later. The tone, too, is

The Rishification of the Tory party

When David Cameron arrived at the Foreign Office on Monday, he told staff he might be a bit rusty when it comes to modern politics. He joked that the only WhatsApp group he is in ‘is to do with my children’s school play’. Cameron may have been out of frontline politics for a while, but the rules stay the same. As Tory leader, he championed his favourites and promoted his supporters to the cabinet table, even at the expense of ignoring older colleagues’ claims. This week, his successor has done the same. A trio of thirtysomething former special advisers elected in 2019 now comprise the Prime Minister’s Praetorian Guard. Laura

The Tories didn’t lose Mid Bedfordshire – Labour won it

In 1975 I travelled as an undergraduate to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and finally to Israel. I visited refugee camps and met a Palestinian militant, Bassam Abu Sharif, who had been blinded in one eye by a Mossad parcel bomb. I talked to policymakers in each country and heard a range of Israeli opinion. On return I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle of the need to address the plight of the Palestinians caused by their displacement. I made the case in favour of a two-state solution five years before the 1980 Venice declaration on Palestinian statehood. One of today’s many tragedies is that Hamas’s barbarism has pushed that solution even

Rory Stewart is a fish out of water

Rory Stewart is one of that almost extinct species in the modern Conservative party, a one-nation Tory. He is also – or was (until Boris Johnson kicked him out) – a politician with hinterland. He had been places and done things before getting himself elected in his late thirties, entering parliament in 2010. Disillusion rapidly set in: Too much of our time was absorbed in gossip about the promotion of one colleague or the scandal engulfing another. Even four weeks in, I sensed more impotence, suspicion, envy, resentment, claustrophobia and schadenfreude than I had seen in any other profession. It is made clear to him from the outset that rebellion

The Tories would be lost in opposition

It is widely observed that many Conservatives are preparing to lose power at the next general election.  The Conservative Democratic Organisation and National Conservatism meetings last week are generally regarded as preparation for the leadership battle that would likely follow Rishi Sunak’s departure from No. 10. Most (though not all) Tories appear to assume that Sunak could not remain leader after that exit, nor want to. Privately too, even the most optimistic Tories will concede that leaving government after 14 years – they’ve just beaten the New Labour tenure – has to be considered a real possibility. What would the Conservatives do in opposition? This is not a trivial question.

My Ibiza diary

You wait 11 years for a Tory leadership election and then three come along in quick succession. The first in which I had a vote was in 2005. In August of that year my candidate, David Cameron, was being told to fold his tents. The final choice was a foregone conclusion: it would be a battle between the big beasts, David Davis and Ken Clarke. The Cameroon cohort in parliament at that point was more notable for quality – Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Nick Soames – than for quantity. They may have made a fine first eleven but it was a struggle to find a twelfth man (or

Boris’s final days in No. 10

‘So what did he say?’ I asked the ministerial friend who went to tell Boris last week he had to resign. ‘Well, he told me a long story about a relative of his who got caught up in a planning dispute, barricaded himself inside his house and the police had to come in force to drag him out. I think it means he’s not going quietly.’ At one level, politics is unpredictable; but enduring political rules apply. Boris told me years ago that while he wasn’t a team player, he could be a good team leader. For all his infectious optimism, it turns out that’s not possible. Downing Street will