In Géricault’s great masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa, despite the horrors of imminent death and cannibalism, there is hope for the remaining crew members. On the horizon, beyond the mountainous waves, we can see rescue arriving. For Rishi Sunak’s Conservative crew, there is no rescue on the horizon.
In a sleight of hand that surprised the most hardened and cynical hacks that London can produce, Sunak delved into the biscuit barrel of Conservative politics and pulled out… an albatross.
Bringing in former PM David Cameron from the cold is certainly an attention grabbing move, but it will do nothing to staunch the desperate polling numbers, nor will it assuage his own fractious party.
The fact that Cameron has been outside day to day politics for 6 years and will hold a major office of state from the unelected House of Lords is unusual. But it may be rather apt for Sunak seeing as he wasn’t elected to his post, indeed he was specifically defeated in an election for it.
Getting rid of Suella Braverman became a simple matter of discipline. What she actually said in her infamous article in The Times about pro-Palestinian “hate” marches and two-teir policing are probably true, but that wasn’t the point. She had defied his authority and had to go.
Looking across the channel Sunak must marvel at Macron’s effortless ease in moral gymnastics. How the French leader has managed to ban pro-Palestinian rallies, host a massive march against anti-Semitism in Paris, while simultanmeously calling for a Gaza ceasefire that would leave Israel under constant threat from Hamas, yet still recieve the plaudits of the world, is genius.
The problem Sunak has is that Cameron may be popular in Brussels – at least he campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, but he is seen as strategically flawed, and in many ways the inadvertent architect of Brexit.
It was the former Prime Minister’s Old Etonian arrogance and insouscence that gulled the EU and the Remain campaign into believing that it was impossible to lose the 2016 Referendum. It is unclear whether he will be trusted in Brussels again.
Right now centrists in London are applauding the appointment, the BBC went off on a vox pop in one of the constituencies that just voted heavily for Labour, Mid-Bedfordshire. All they found were people who applauded the move, of course they did.
So let us look at this safe pair of soft hands’ record on foreign affairs. He resigned from office immediately after losing that 2016 referendum. Having gambled the house and lost against a rag-tag bag of tweedy revolutionaries and 17.4 million people called his very well tailored bluff.
His famous negotiating skills with the EU in fact led to that failure. If he had managed to get even the slightest concession out of Brussels the likelihood is that the UK would have voted to Remain, but if the UK’s greatest Pro-Brussels cheerleader could get nothing the stage was set.
His love affair with China allowed the UK to be penetrated at almost every strategic level by Chinese espionage and has led to an economic imbalance that the country still suffers from. For him the Golden Era in Sino-UK relations saw the prioritising of the economy over security and decency.
China’s crackdown on liberties in Hong Kong, spying concerns and its treatment of Uyghur Muslims happened both under his and later watches, but was facilitated by the lead he gave while in office.
Cameron allowed his party to be bankrolled by highly suspect funds from Russia, while keeping his eye off the ball over developments in Ukraine.
Personally most worrying was his involvement in the Greensill scandal where he lobbied directly with Rishi Sunak (when Sunak was Chancellor) on behalf of a bank in which he had been promised a significant shareholding. The fact that he failed in the lobbying and the bank collapsed is neither here nor there.
In the time he was Greenshilling, Cameron took the bank’s boss to a pow wow in the desert with Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This was only months after Salman’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was confirmed by the US State Department.
Right now however his approach to Gaza and Israel will be under the greatest scrutiny. And in the light of the recent demonstrations in London and the massive spike in anti-Semitic hate crime in the UK it doesn’t look good.
In 2010, in order to suck up to renowned democrat Erdogan in Turkey, Cameron stated, “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”
This intervention caused a former Israeli defence minister to riposte, “Cameron is right – Gaza is a prison camp, but those who control the prison are Hamas. I’m totally against the double standards of a nation which fights the Taliban but is showing its solidarity with their brothers, Hamas.
“It’s very regrettable that the British PM doesn’t understand that. It reflects a lack of understanding and is a very bad sign. Cameron doesn’t understand that 1.5m people live in Gaza under the repressive regime of Hamas – and yet he blames Israel”.
But the bottom line for the Prime Minister is this: he looks across the elected Tory members of Parliament and instead of alighting upon any one of them, he feels forced to choose someone who left politics over six years ago. This is unambiguously a failure.
Cameron is despised in the UK by Brexiteers for his conduct of the Referendum, and by many pro-Europeans for allowing the Referendum in the first place.
By the time the Medusa’s crew were finally rescued in 1816, of the original 143 on the raft, only 15 remained. Right now, looking at Sunak’s chances at the next election, that number looks optimististic.