Sunak then announced he was bringing Cameron back to frontline politics as foreign secretary, in a stunning move that has few parallels in recent British political history.

Cameron served as prime minister from 2010 to 2016, resigning after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that he had called.

So we're told that kind of move--appointing a former PM to a 'mere' minister role-- is uncommon. When was the last/prior time that that happened?

The BBC has a hint, but is not super explicit:

It was Lord Cameron's appointment that stunned Westminster and made him the first former prime minister to re-enter government since the 1970s.

So who's that referring to?

  • 1
    Also interesting perhaps, Cameron is a minister in the Lords, which has some interesting implications for his cross-questioning instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainer/… Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:38
  • 2
    not really there have been many ministers in the Lords several in the last 15 years
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 14:45
  • 8
    If you finished reading the CNN article you linked: "In recent decades, the move can only be compared to Alec Douglas-Home – prime minister for a year from 1963 – who returned as foreign secretary in 1970 under Edward Heath’s government."
    – Silver Fox
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


The instance in the 1970s was when Alec Douglas-Home came back to serve as Foreign Secretary in the Heath ministry in 1970, just under six years after leaving the office of Prime Minister in 1964 after the Conservative Party lost the General Election.

A government blog from 2012 puts the number of Prime Ministers returning to government under another at fourteen since the 18th-century; Cameron now makes this fifteen. The blog doesn't provide a list, so the interested reader may find one below.

Prime Minister Date left Office Later Role Date Rejoined
David Cameron 13/07/2016 Foreign Secretary 13/11/2023
Alec Douglas-Home 16/10/1964 Foreign Secretary 20/06/1970
Neville Chamberlain 10/05/1940 Lord President of the Council 10/05/1940
Ramsay MacDonald 07/06/1935 Lord President of the Council 07/06/1935
Stanley Baldwin 04/06/1929 Lord President of the Council 24/08/1931
Arthur Balfour 04/12/1905 First Lord of the Admiralty 25/05/1915
The Earl Russell 21/02/1852 Foreign Secretary 28/12/1852
The Duke of Wellington 16/11/1830 Foreign Secretary 1834
The Viscount Goderich 21/11/1828 Secretary of State for War and the Colonies 22/11/1830
Henry Addington 10/05/1804 Lord President of the Council 14/01/1805
The Duke of Portland 18/12/1783 Home Secretary 11/07/1794
Lord North 27/03/1782 Home Secretary 02/04/1783
The Duke of Grafton 28/01/1770 Lord Privy Seal 12/06/1771
The Duke of Newcastle 26/05/1762 Lord Privy Seal 1765
The Duke of Devonshire 29/06/1757 Lord Chamberlain 1757
  • Wasn't Balfour the foreign secretary - he wore the Balfour Declaration in 1917
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:54
  • 2
    @mmmmmm yes, and he was later also Lord President of the Council - I'm going by the first Cabinet-level position they held post-premiership.
    – CDJB
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 14:01
  • 1
    15 in a little less than 300 years, so a a bit more than once every 20 years. Or 15 of the 56 distinct PMs since 1721, for a bit better than 25%. I'd say that makes the OP's "uncommon" a good choice of words, and CNN's characterization a bit sensationalized. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:11
  • 3
    @JohnBollinger Note that in the quote above, they say recent history. Taking an average obscures the fact that this hasn't happened in more than 50 years (and the time before was 30 years earlier). Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 17:50
  • I would say Stanley Baldwin stopped being prime minister on 4 June 1929 (the second of the three times he stopped, but more relevant than 22 January 1924)
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 9:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .