Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron has lambasted his successors, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, over their decisions on security and foreign aid, but acknowledged his government’s inability to properly prepare for COVID-19.
Speaking at the Parliament’s National Security Strategy Committee on Monday, Cameron berated May for merging the national security advisers and cabinet secretary posts.
“I think it was for instance a very bad mistake combining cabinet secretary and national security adviser - they are two jobs”, the ex-prime minister said.
In late October 2018, then-Prime Minister May appointed Sir Mark Sedwill to combine the roles of chief civil servant and national security adviser following the retirement of Sir Jeremy Heywood, 56, who was suffering from cancer.
“For one person, even if you were a cross of Einstein, Wittgenstein and Mother Teresa, you couldn’t possibly do both jobs and I think that temporarily weakened the National Security Council”, Cameron argued, referring to May’s decision.
He also lashed out at Prime Minister Johnson over his move to scrap the Department for International Development (DfID), which merged with the Foreign Office in September 2020.
At the time, Johnson insisted that the decision would help “put the tackling of poverty and deprivation at the heart of foreign policy”.
Cameron, for his part, told MPs that he thinks abolishing the DfID was “a mistake too for all sorts of reasons, but one of which is actually having the Foreign Office voice around the [national security council] table and the DfID voice around the table I think is important – they are not necessarily the same thing”.
He wondered whether one is able to “really expect the foreign secretary to do all of the diplomatic stuff and be able to speak to the development brief as well”.
“That’s quite a task, so I think it is good to have both”, the former prime minister added.
This echoed Cameron’s remarks in mid-June 2020, when he tweeted that the end of the DfID “will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas”.
More could and should be done to co-ordinate aid and foreign policy, including through the National Security Council, but the end of @DFID_UK will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas. 2/2— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) June 16, 2020
“[…] The focus was very much on influenza rather than on respiratory diseases. And I'm sure there will be a big inquiry into what we learnt and all the rest, but I think there was a pretty good flu pandemic plan, but it was a flu plan rather than a respiratory diseases plan”, he underlined.