David Cameron has made a dramatic return to Government as Foreign Secretary in a reshuffle triggered by Rishi Sunak’s decision to sack Suella Braverman from the Home Office.

The former prime minister replaced James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and will be given a peerage.

Mr Cleverly takes on the job of Home Secretary after Mr Sunak ended Mrs Braverman’s controversial tenure in the job.

Sacking one of the leading figures on the Tory right could pose difficulties for the Prime Minister as he seeks to get his party united behind him and ready for a general election, expected next year.

The appointment of Lord Cameron was a massive shock in Westminster, not just because of the return of a former prime minister to government – the first since Alec Douglas-Home – but also because of his views on China.

During the Cameron administration there was a “golden era” of UK-China co-operation, something Mr Sunak described as “naive” last year following growing tensions with Beijing.

Lord Cameron had also been critical of Mr Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, while the Prime Minister used his Tory conference speech to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessors.

But the former prime minister made clear he backed Mr Sunak and would work with him to help the Tories win the general election expected next year.

The new Foreign Secretary said: “Though I may have disagreed with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable Prime Minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time.

“I want to help him to deliver the security and prosperity our country needs and be part of the strongest possible team that serves the United Kingdom and that can be presented to the country when the general election is held. ”

Ominously for Mr Sunak, Mrs Braverman said she would have “more to say in due course” about her exit, which followed rows over comments about homeless people and the policing of pro-Palestinian marches.

Mrs Braverman said: “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as home secretary.”

Former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns said Mrs Braverman had been “sacked for speaking the truth”, and it was a “bad call by Rishi caving in to the left”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Former Tory treasurer Lord Cruddas also criticised Mr Sunak’s actions, saying: “The coup is complete, remain has won and democracy has lost.”

The reshuffle has also seen Steve Barclay move from the Department of Health to take up the role of Environment Secretary, following the resignation of Therese Coffey. The Cabinet exit of Ms Coffey, who is a close friend Liz Truss, could cause anger among allies of the former prime minister.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ms Coffey said that it was “now the right time to step back from government”.

Mr Barclay was replaced at the Department of Health and Social Care by Victoria Atkins.

News of Mrs Braverman’s exit came as defence minister James Heappey was touring broadcast studios.

Minutes before she was sacked, he had told LBC that Mr Sunak and his team in No 10 had been “very clear she (Mrs Braverman) has his confidence and, in that sense, one would imagine that she will continue”.

But he was told on air during an ITV Good Morning Britain interview that she had been sacked, leaving him to say: “Your viewers will be enjoying my discomfort, but it is in this case difficult to offer commentary when I just don’t know what is going on.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Suella Braverman was never fit to be Home Secretary. Rishi Sunak knew this and he still appointed her.

“It was the Prime Minister’s sheer cowardice that kept her in the job even for this long. We are witnessing a broken party and a broken Government, both of which are breaking this country.”

In his first comments in the new role, Mr Cleverly said it was an “honour to be appointed as Home Secretary”.

“The goal is clear,” he said.

“My job is to keep people in this country safe.”

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak promoted roads and local transport minister Richard Holden to Tory chairman, replacing Greg Hands in the key role at party headquarters.

In the junior ranks, Will Quince and Neil O’Brien both quit as health ministers, while veteran schools minister Nick Gibb also left his post, Jesse Norman departed from the Department for Transport and Rachel Maclean was sacked as housing minister.

Ms Maclean’s exit was mourned by Cabinet minister Kemi Badenoch, who described her as an “excellent minister”.

Meanwhile Jeremy Quin quit as paymaster general rather than continue in another job amid reports he was offered the housing portfolio.