Failed Remain campaign, pints with Chinese premier: David Cameron's global track record
David Cameron's return to politics, though surprising, comes with baggage. His business endeavors and lobbying have raised eyebrows and concerns.
In David Cameron's last appearance in parliament, he uttered five words that now seem premature - "I was the future once." This return to politics came as a shock, but there have been whispers for a while that the former prime minister had struggled to adjust to life outside government. In 2018, an article reported that he had even been telling friends he wanted to be foreign secretary as he was "bored s***less" in the outside world.
Now, as the newly ennobled Lord Cameron, his record on the global stage is being scrutinized. Some are pointing to the warm relations he sought to strike with Beijing while in power, hailing a "golden era" and inviting the Chinese premier for a pint in a local pub during his state visit. More recent business activity, including a visit to drum up investment for a Sri Lankan infrastructure project, has raised eyebrows, with critics fearing it may one day act as a Chinese military outpost.
A diplomatic pivot will most definitely be needed to adjust to the spikier approach now taken to the world's second-largest economy. Theresa Villers, a former MP who served in the Cameron cabinet, told Sky News that the political landscape has changed dramatically since he resigned, and MPs will want the assurance that his approach on issues such as China will reflect where we are now, not where we were during the Cameron era in Downing Street.
Cameron's experience in the Middle East is also worthy of inspection, particularly with the Israel-Hamas war set to occupy much of the new foreign secretary's time. In office during the Arab Spring, he oversaw airstrikes in Libya that paved the way for the overthrow of the country's leader Muammar Gadaffi. After initial claims of a new era of freedom, the North African state eventually descended into violence, with MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee criticizing the intervention as ill-informed and lacking a coherent strategy.
But it's Brexit that stands as David Cameron's biggest foreign policy legacy. As the leader of the Remain campaign, he failed to convince voters and quit as an MP just as parliament was grappling with the chaotic fallout from the vote. His former national security adviser Lord Peter Ricketts says his old boss "accepts where we are now" and has been put in office "to take a firm grip on crises while the prime minister is concentrating on domestic affairs for the next year".
Since leaving Downing Street, Cameron hasn't been short of job offers. He's taken on a variety of roles, including president of a dementia charity and chairman of the National Citizen Service. However, his corporate endeavors have caused more trouble, particularly his association with the now-defunct financial services firm Greensill Capital. Newspapers later revealed he had approached several Whitehall contacts to try and get the company access to a COVID loans scheme. While being cleared of any wrongdoing, the affair shone a spotlight on the rules around lobbying.
Picked for his experience, this familiar face comes with baggage too. There are currently criminal investigations into Greensill Capital in Switzerland and Germany, and there's an ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation, as well as multibillion-dollar lawsuits all over the world. Each one of these is going to involve lots of additional information that's going to come out about Cameron's role.