Rishi Sunak Rearranges the Deck Chairs

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (AFP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (AFP)


Britain’s Prime Minister reshuffles his cabinet instead of his policies.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reshuffled his cabinet Monday, and Britons can be forgiven if they don’t learn his new ministers’ names. They might not be around long. Changing ministers at this late date is unlikely to change the bleak Tory prospects in an election expected next year.

The reshuffle brought two major personnel changes. One is the firing of Suella Braverman as home secretary with responsibility for policing and immigration. Her sins are said to include publishing a controversial column last week in the Times of London (which shares ownership with this newspaper) criticizing pro-Palestine marches in London, and failing to stop illegal immigration across the English Channel.

The other is the hiring of former Prime Minister David Cameron as foreign secretary. Mr. Cameron resigned as PM after his campaign to stay in the European Union failed in the 2016 Brexit referendum. He squandered a parliamentary majority he won a year earlier.

Both are puzzling decisions. Ms. Braverman’s description of the pro-Palestine protests in London and elsewhere as “hate marches" is blunt but seems to resonate with Mr. Sunak’s Conservative Party base. Tory turmoil helps the opposition Labour Party, which until Monday was the leader in internal turmoil over the Israel-Hamas war and protests.

Mr. Cameron is a tribune of the big-government conservatism that has left the Tories in a rut after 13 years in power. His history of boosterism over business links to China and his 2010 description of Gaza as “a prison camp" make him especially questionable as a foreign minister given the international challenges facing Britain now.

Mr. Sunak may hope a cabinet with more experienced hands will reassure voters that the Tories remain the most competent party. But Monday’s reshuffle didn’t change economic policy, which remains the Tories’ biggest vulnerability.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt remains in his post with his high-tax, high-spend formula for fighting inflation. The Tories hope the inflation rate will have fallen below 5% by the end of this year to meet one of Mr. Sunak’s promises to voters. But it will take years for inflation-adjusted earnings to catch up to the new, higher price level. Until then the political squeeze will continue.

This is the record that’s dragging the Tories to double-digit shortfalls against Labour in opinion polls, and Mr. Sunak shouldn’t give them less reason to vote Conservative on foreign policy or law and order. Accidents can happen in elections, so the Tories still have a chance. But conservative parties looking for an electoral sure thing rather than relying on luck can note the policy failures that have left Mr. Sunak rolling the dice on the symbolism of personnel changes.

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