More than twice as many in traditional Labour seats won by the Tories in 2019 said the former prime minister’s shock appointment as Foreign Secretary was the wrong decision as those who welcomed his return to politics.
But those living in the Conservative heartlands were warmer towards the peer’s appointment, favouring and opposing it in equal measure.
Research by the More In Common think tank found 49 per cent of ‘‘loyal nationals’’ – its term for the voters who abandoned Labour for the Tories in 2019 – believed Mr Sunak had made the wrong decision by bringing Lord Cameron back.
Fewer than one in four loyal nationals (23 per cent) thought it was the right decision, a statistic that is likely to fuel concerns that the presence of a prime minister who led the unsuccessful Remain campaign is unlikely to prove popular in heavily Brexit-backing areas.
Among ‘‘established liberals’’, the phrase used by More In Common for the Blue Wall constituents of traditional Tory seats, 28 per cent said Mr Sunak had made the right decision, with the same amount arguing he had got it wrong, while 44 per cent did not know.
‘‘Backbone Conservatives’’ – card-carrying supporters of the party who tend to be older and prosperous – also responded positively to Lord Cameron’s comeback, with 42 per cent of those surveyed hailing it as the correct decision, while 26 per cent opposed it.
Luke Tryl, the director of More In Common, warned the polling shows the “catch 22” faced by the Conservatives as they prepare for the next general election.
“The return of Cameron certainly seems like it has pleased more blue Tory voters and could help the Party in its fight against the Liberal Democrats,” he said.
“But for Red Wall voters in particular, the failure of the Rwanda scheme is just another example of the Government failing to deliver on its promises and explains their switch back to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.”
Mr Tryl noted the Rwanda plan presented a delicate “balancing act”, adding that threats to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) “could well alienate those more liberal Tory voters the party used the reshuffle to try and win back”.
Lord Cameron’s return has also split Conservative backbenchers. One Tory representing a southern constituency hailed him as “utterly brilliant and a fabulous prime minister”, adding: “I’ve got complete faith in him to conduct our diplomacy in an exemplary fashion.”
But another added: “Cameron is not going to win votes in Red Wall seats. He’s not popular, he couldn’t even properly beat Gordon Brown. An anti-woke campaign makes no sense when David Cameron was the author of ‘woke’ in the Conservative party.”
Asked on the day of the reshuffle whether Lord Cameron now believed in Brexit, the Prime Minister’s press secretary told reporters: “Yes, of course. We are making Brexit a success.”
After the Rwanda judgment on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary said controlling Britain’s borders was a “fundamental duty” of the Government as he promised to “do whatever is needed” to end illegal migration.