July 15, 2024

James Cleverly, who will move from his position leading the Foreign Office to become Britain’s home secretary, is generally seen as less ideological and more of a team player than his predecessor in the Home Office, Suella Braverman.

He will inherit a department dealing with the fallout from Ms. Braverman’s face-off with Britain’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police of London, over pro-Palestinian marches in the capital.

Also looming on his agenda: a decision due Wednesday from the Supreme Court on the lawfulness of the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a signature policy for the Conservatives that has been divisive with the public.

When asked if he planned to distance himself from the populist rhetoric of his predecessor, Mr. Cleverly told Sky News, “I intend to do this job in the way that I feel best protects the British people and our interests.”

In his most recent role, Mr. Cleverly oversaw Britain’s foreign relations amid the uncertainty prompted by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and wars raging in Gaza and in Ukraine.

Mr. Cleverly, whose mother came to Britain from Sierra Leone, served in the military and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel as an army reservist.

A strong supporter of Brexit, he quickly rose in the ranks of the Conservative Party after the 2019 general election. Before becoming foreign minister, he served as education secretary from July 2022 to September 2022, and before that, held a series of junior ministerial roles.

More recently, he has represented Britain as war erupted in the Middle East and has made a number of trips to the region. He visited Israel days after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and met survivors and officials to emphasize British support for the Israeli government.

Last week, he visited Saudi Arabia, where he said in a statement that he was “focused on diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages, to ensure that foreign nationals can leave Gaza, to deter any escalation regionally and to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid at scale.”

Mr. Cleverly also visited Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, twice while foreign secretary, most recently in June, when he met with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to reiterate Britain’s support before a conference in London focused on rebuilding.

Many analysts see Mr. Cleverly as less polarizing than Ms. Braverman, and he is unlikely to be as hard-line as his predecessor in dealing with some issues, particularly immigration. He has said that his three priorities as home secretary will be “protection of the U.K.,” “stopping the boats” — referring to the increased numbers of immigrants who cross the English Channel from France, often in rickety vessels — and “supporting our police to keep us safe.” All of those fall squarely in line with stated government goals.

He has previously spoken out against the use of a former military barracks in Essex, southeastern England, to house asylum seekers, a policy that Ms. Braverman had heralded.

Mr. Cleverly, who represents Braintree, a town near the site, said in a Facebook post in March that the site “wasn’t appropriate for asylum accommodation” because of its remoteness and the limited transportation infrastructure in the area.

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