David Cameron is the very embodiment of a broken political system - Bill Carmichael
I certainly didn’t see that one coming, and judging by the stunned reaction of seasoned Westminster correspondents I was not alone in that.
Try as I might, I couldn't discern the strategy behind Rishi Sunak’s decision to bring Mr Cameron, soon to be Lord Cameron, back into the Cabinet.
After all, just a few weeks ago at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister made a speech marking a decisive break with the last 13 years of Conservative Party rule. He presented himself as the change candidate repudiating “30 years of political status quo”, telling Conservative delegates: “You either think this country needs to change, or you don’t.”
Yet, here he is little over a month later appointing to a senior role in his Cabinet the very embodiment of that broken system - one of the men who helped instigate the chaos of the last few years in the first place. If Mr Sunak believes Cameron’s approach didn’t work in the past, why does he think it will work today?
The Prime Minister is a clever man, and I am sure he has some ace strategists working for him, so let’s try and work out the positives of this move.
Sure, Cameron is experienced and well connected, with eleven years as party leader and six years as Prime Minister under his belt. And as a former premier he will command some authority in foreign capitals.
He also restored his party from no-hopers during the Blair years to an effective electoral force, with a partial victory in 2010 and emphatic win in 2015. He deserves credit for that.
But it was all downhill from there. Alongside his Chancellor George Osborne, he was the architect of the disastrous tactic of “Project Fear” during the Brexit referendum which backfired in spectacular fashion.
Osborne threatened voters with a “punishment budget” if they dared to defy the elite’s command to vote Remain, and his Treasury forecast mass unemployment and a house price crash, which were little more than figments of their imagination.
Meanwhile, we were menaced with ever more lurid tales of what would happen if we left the EU - planes would not be able to land or take off in the UK; we wouldn’t be allowed to holiday in Spain; diabetics would drop dead in the street for want of insulin; there would outbreaks of drug-resistant “super–gonorrhoea”, and most ridiculous of all, that we would never eat sandwiches again outside the EU.
It was entirely risible and failed miserably to convince the voters to follow the government’s lead. Cameron had all the advantages he could wish for during the campaign, with the support of the Parliament, all the big political parties, big business, the trade unions, academia, the courts and much of the media, and he completely blew it.
Then, amidst the smoking wreckage he had created, he immediately announced his resignation at Downing Street in 2016, and strolled off, humming (quite literally) a happy tune to himself.
And now, incredibly, he is back.
Some commentators have seen the sacking of Suella Braverman as a sign of Sunak repudiating the “hard right” of his party, and returning the Conservatives to the centre ground, from which, we are told, elections are won. Perhaps there is something to this, but I can see problems too. I am increasingly convinced the atrocities of October 7 have changed something fundamental in the West. The cruelty and sheer depravity of Hamas terrorists as they gleefully murdered children and filmed themselves doing it, has permanently changed the way many, including me, see the world.
And as a result an increasing number of people outside the “hard right” agree with Braverman, over police bias, immigration and the policing of protests.
For example, once you witness the antisemitic placards and chants, and protesters expressing support for Hitler, and shouting “Death to all Jews”, it is hard to disagree with her characterisation of the protests as “hate marches”. Although not all the protesters are racists, it is abundantly clear that many of them are.
Unless Sunak can come up with a coherent strategy to accommodate these new political realities I can’t see him sparking the sort of political revival needed to win the next election. If he thinks David Cameron is the answer, he is probably asking the wrong question.