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Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is back in U.K. politics

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned in 2016, is back. Yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired his home secretary and brought on Cameron as foreign secretary. So what does the shakeup say about the shape of British politics? Alastair Campbell is with me now. He was a press secretary and campaign director for the Labour Party, which is the opposition to the current government, and now he hosts a podcast called "The Rest Is Politics." Good morning.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: How are you?

FADEL: I'm doing well. Thanks for being on the program.

CAMPBELL: Pleasure.

FADEL: So I want to start with Cameron's return. How is it being received that Prime Minister Sunak is bringing Cameron on?

CAMPBELL: Well, it was one of those kind of jaw-dropping moments that very occasionally happen in politics. You mentioned the podcast there. We did a special episode last night, and we've just been looking at the figures. It's had the biggest response to any episode we've ever done. So people are definitely interested in it, interested in him, interested in what it says about Rishi Sunak and the direction he's trying to take the country. So I think it's bold and it's interesting, but I think it's fraught with risk for the Conservatives. I think the first thing it shows is they're a bit desperate.

A lot of members of the House of Commons, which is elected, will be thinking, why are they having to go to the - put somebody in the House of Lords to give us a foreign secretary? And also, I don't know how many of your listeners would have followed it closely, but it follows a sort of seemingly never-ending dispute between Sunak and his home secretary, a woman called Suella Braverman. He finally - somebody I think he should never have appointed, but he appointed her - big mistake - and he's now had to sack her. And to try to sort of stabilize things, he's brought back David Cameron.

FADEL: So what does it say, though?

CAMPBELL: So it's a big, bold move, but it's fraught.

FADEL: You say it's fraught. What does it say about Sunak's government that he's bringing on Cameron?

CAMPBELL: Partly a lack of talent, partly the need to try to have a few sort of big beasts around the place. But also, I think it's him trying to signal that he made a mistake in pandering to the sort of, you know, what you would identify as kind of MAGA Republicans. We've got a smaller version of that here. Braverman, the home secretary, was part of that. And this is him saying, I tried that and it's not worked, and I'm going to try something different. But it's also fraught because, of course, David Cameron was the architect of austerity, which has done a lot of damage to our public services. He was the guy who decided to hold the Brexit referendum, which has, I think, been an utter catastrophe for the country.

And also, there's some very interesting foreign parties. The foreign secretary, one of the things that he was often criticized for when he was prime minister was a much, much, much closer relationship with China, which a lot of people in his party and the government now see as having been a mistake. And also, while he's been out of office, he's been involved in - you know, a lot of people leave office and they go off and make money. And he's been involved in a scandal, frankly, with a guy called Lex Greensill, who I think is still under criminal investigation. And Cameron made $10 million lobbying for him. So that sort of issue that's gone quiet will probably come back up again.

FADEL: So a lot that the Labour Party maybe can spin here about this government. But what could the appointment of Cameron to foreign secretary say for the U.K. on the global stage, just in the few seconds we have left?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think, on that, I mean, he's obviously having been a prime minister of the U.K., you know, for a fair long time. You know, we've had five prime ministers since. Is it five or four? I can't remember how many. We've had a lot of prime ministers who haven't lasted very long. He was there for a fair old while. I think he is seen as somebody who, despite Brexit, carries a certain amount of credibility with him.

FADEL: We'll have to leave it there. Alastair Campbell, thank you so much.

CAMPBELL: My pleasure. All the best. Bye-bye.

FADEL: Alastair Campbell is the host of a podcast called "The Rest Is Politics" and a former press secretary and campaign director for the Labour Party. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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