GeneralIs David Cameron winning over critics?

Is David Cameron winning over critics?


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One hundred days, thirty-six different visits to twenty-six different countries, and eight different multinational gatherings including the G20 and G7. Lord David Cameron’s gargantuan diplomatic efforts since returning to high office are made possible only by the absence of democratic accountability, with no constituents to return home for, he can afford to be travelling seven days a week but is trading democracy for diplomacy really worth it?

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently marked 100 days since his return to government. Despite skepticism, he appears to have won over his critics for his energetic approach to foreign policy which has thus far seen him make four trips to the Middle East to meet key players in the Israel-Gaza conflict, a couple of visits to Kyiv amidst the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, complete a tour of the Americas including the Falkland Islands, and a visit to every major European capital. Such efforts have even led some to credit Cameron with restoring British influence in the world.

Nonetheless, such an approach is only made possible because Cameron has no constituency and thus no niggly pressing domestic concerns such as potholes and rubbish collection to concern himself with. As Lord Peter Ricketts put it, Cameron is clearly relishing his freedom to be Foreign Secretary for seven days a week, compared with his ministerial peers who must return to their second jobs as constituency MPs.

This evokes several interesting questions. Does the Foreign Secretary need a direct democratic mandate to conduct his duties on behalf of the British government and its people? And if he does not, should he?

Should the Foreign Secretary be an MP?

The Office of Foreign Secretary is one of the four great offices of state. The incumbent is, in effect, the highest-ranking British diplomatic, responsible for UK relations with foreign dignitaries and carrying out the government’s foreign policy. Inevitably, this results in an intense travel schedule.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, following the October 7 deadly attack by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. November 23, 2023. Reuters.

And yet, traditionally, the British Foreign Secretary would still be expected to juggle such responsibilities with that of an MP tending to local constituents and their concerns. This isn’t feasible, not least if you want your leading diplomat to consistently show up on different stages across the globe. Not least, if simultaneously, you want your local MP to be both sincere and effective at addressing issues in your local area.

If the foreign secretary should not be an MP, should he be a Lord?

Where is the Foreign Secretaries’ democratic mandate?

When Rishi Sunak chose to appoint David Cameron as Foreign Secretary, the latter had taken a political leave of absence following the infamous Brexit referendum he called back in 2016. This meant that to become a minister, without an upcoming election, the only way was to appoint Cameron to the Lords, where no election is required – Lords are appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Members of the Lords cannot enter the House of Commons and thus do not face the same level of scrutiny a cabinet minister drawn from the House of Commons itself would face.

Instead, members of the House of Lords are scrutinized by their peers. This blurs democratic accountability when Lords are not elected, but chosen by politicians, and the representatives chosen by citizens to act on their behalf cannot provide the necessary checks and balance on their power.

However, some experts argue Lord Cameron is kept in check, not least, by four of his predecessors. Former holders of the Office of Foreign Secretary – Lord David Own, Lord Douglas Herd, Lord William Hague, and Lord Philip Hammond are said to be more capable of providing the necessary checks and balances on the current Foreign Secretary than even those in the Commons given their wealth of expertise and experience in the very role he fills.

Is it High Time for a UK Senate?

Come what may, so long as the Lords remains an unelected house there will remain an argument it has no place in a modern democratic society. So what other democratic alternatives are there?

Reforming the House of Lords has been an ambition of many in politics over the last century. The idea of a UK senate, akin to the one operating in the United States, is an idea that resurfaces infrequently.

Across the pond, the Senate consists of one-hundred senators, with two directly elected from each state. The Senate confirms the ministerial appointments of the government and provides the necessary checks and balances on behalf of the electorate.

Whilst across the Channel, in the case of the French senate, it also provides an opportunity for proportional representation, which has the additional benefit of helping to rebalance geographic divides, a well-known British problem.

Ultimately, the UK doesn’t have to trade democracy for diplomacy, but for now, it chooses to.

Shane Green
Shane Green
Shane Green is a freelance journalist and scholar of international relations based in Seoul, South Korea. He has previously worked in local economic development and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Politics from the University of Manchester. You can visit his personal blog at:

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