As one door closes, another one opens…
In a little less than 24 hours, the dear old Queen will have performed the necessary formal niceties, and Theresa May will walk through the doors of Downing Street to become the United Kingdom’s 76th Prime Minister, and the 15th of the second Elizabethan era. But, more pertinently, perhaps, she might actually be the last.
David Cameron’s swan song will be at the Despatch Box for PMQs tomorrow; doubtless the tributes will be every bit as fulsome (in its original, perjorative, sense) and insincere as we might expect at such a time, but it should not let us be blinded to the fact that his time in office has been disastrous. History will not be kind to David William Donald Cameron MP. In years to come he will be spoken of in tones similar to those now used about Chamberlain or Eden. Neville at least had the defence (if you listen to some revisionists now) that he was stalling Hitler so we could re-arm. But, like Eden, Cameron has no real defence at all. His only achievement of note was the acceptance of marriage equality, but for the six years he has occupied Downing Street that is extremely thin gruel.
He has presided over a period of economic austerity, and a prolonged and vicious attack on some of the most poor, vulnerable and needy in society, while he and his ally at Number 11, have cemented the privileged position of the very wealthiest in our society. He has neglected your position on the world stage, and alienated many of our allies (including some of our soon to be erstwhile ones in the EU). There are still questions to be asked about the conduct of his party during the 2015 election (which one hopes the police will continue to ask), and still questions to be asked about his connections to those working for Rupert Murdoch.
To protect his position, he has played some very risky hands. His style has very much been in the vein of securing short-term tactical wins, but building up a bank of longer term strategic problems that came back to bite hm. You’d have thought that after coming so close to disaster in September 2014 in Scotland, saved only by a frenzied splurge of promises at the point where there was a real possibility that the Scots might actually have chosen secession, that lessons might have been learned. But no. He gambled the country’s future to keep his own fractious backbenchers, and UKIP, quiet. He fatally underestimated the scale of the dissatisfaction of dissent against a political class of which he was a potent symbol. The sounds of the boos ringing in his ears on Sunday afternoon in, of all places, Wimbledon, was stark evidence of that.
In the end, his luck ran out.
Cameron’s style was very much in the image of Blair: bland, media-friendly, slick and essentially superficial. A man of few discernible principles, he seemed to tack whichever way he thought the public wind was blowing. What was more worrying was that this continuation just cemented in a section of the British public (who had already had the scales fall from their eyes in the fallout after Iraq) a sense of cynicism and mistrust about the political system, and the people within it. June 23 was the chance that an increasingly angry and alienated electorate took to kick the system firmly and squarely where it hurt.
And like everyone else within a mile of the campaigns, Cameron abandoned ship when the moment came. The rather cloying speech he gave on the morning of June 24 was an attempt to present a statesmanlike aura to the end, filled with nautical allusions that might trigger in some the swelling of Britain as an island nation. He conveniently forgot to mention that whichever captain the ship had next would find life difficult, having had their predecessor run it aground in the most public of fashions.
If May does as she is indicating, the Brexit negotiations will start soon. Article 50 will be invoked, It is almost inconceivable to see how Scotland’s people would vote to remain in such a Union. Cameron’s legacy will be complete: the man who led the Conservative Party will have been responsible for the dissolution of the United Kingdom, at his second attempt. Not even in Eden’s darkest hour, the final Suez-shaped coffin nail in Britain’s Imperial era, were things ever as bleak as that; not even he managed to destroy the Union.
David Cameron: possibly the worst, and perhaps the penultimate Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Good riddance, and may history treat you with the contempt you so richly deserve.