Extensive ministerial changes announced this week see David Cameron back, with a leading role in the UK’s relations with the EU, and extensive changes at HM Treasury.

Cameron’s surprise return from the wilderness as foreign secretary sitting in the House of Lords comes seven years after he resigned in the wake of the advisory referendum voted in favour of Brexit.  His department leads on relations with the EU. 

James Cleverly, who was foreign secretary and has moved to the Home Office following the sacking of Selle Braverman, told the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Committee in Brussels in July:  “We have to recognise that we will not agree on everything. But in mature relationships, we can deal with differences, whilst making the most of the areas where we agree.”

Relations with China are a key part of Cameron’s role and here the appointment is especially controversial.  As prime minister, he led a policy of closer links to China but sentiment has shifted since then.

Most of the positions at HM Treasury have changed.  New chief secretary Laura Trott MBE rose to prominence at No 10’s policy unit under David Cameron, credited with formulating the tax-free childcare policy and becoming director of strategic communication.  After Cameron resigned, she took a job as director of Portland Communications.  She succeeds John Glen, who has been moved to be minister for the Cabinet Office.

New financial secretary Mark Huddleston, who worked for Arthur Andersen, Deloitte and Google before becoming an MP, is a member of the centrist Reform Group and opposed Brexit in 2016.  He has spent the past year as trade minister and replaced Victoria Atkins, who becomes health and social care secretary.

New economic secretary Bim Afolami, who voted “Remain” in 2016 and also a Reform Group member, is chair of PRASEG, the cross-party Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group. He is best-known for resigning from his role as a vice-chair of the Conservative Party during a live television interview, over the Johnson scandals.

Afolami succeeds Andrew Griffiths, formerly a close advisor to Boris Johnson, who is made minister for science, research and innovation.  His predecessor in that role, George Freeman, indicated in September he wanted to step down, apparently looking to a future beyond front-bench politics.

New parliamentary secretary for the Treasury in the Lords in Baroness Vere, who actively campaigned for Remain in 2016 through “Conservatives In” and became a life peer in Cameron’s resignation honours list. 

Saqib Bhatti is made under-secretary at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology,  One of his roles will be to help steer the Digital Markets Bill through Parliament.  Bhatti, an accountant, is a former president of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, was vice-chair of West Midlands mayor Andy Street’s 2020 election campaign and is vice-chair of the Conservative Party for Business.  Before becoming an MP, he formed the pro-Brexit Muslims for Britain.

Greg Hands is back as trade minister, succeeding Mark Huddlestone, after a spell as Conservative Party chairman.

Full list of appointments:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ministerial-appointments-november-2023#:~:text=See%20all%20updates-,The%20King%20has%20been%20pleased%20to%20approve%20the%20following%20government,Foreign%2C%20Commonwealth%20and%20Development%20Affairs.

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