Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Last days of David Cameron

On Sunday, David Cameron had a day in the sun with his mum, sat on the edge of the royal box watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon. On Monday Andrea Leadsom decided against running for leadership of the Conservative party, after having been savaged by the right wing press, and David Cameron came out of the doors of No 10 to announce that Theresa May would become Prime Minister on Wednesday. A tiny detail circulating on twitter is that as he turned to go back inside he hummed a tune, “dee dum, dee dum – Right!” It is impossible not to wonder what was going through his mind.

On Tuesday we can presume that they are packing inside no 10. And on the radio the discussions are already beginning about the political legacy of David Cameron, how will he be remembered?

One of the points made in this discussion was that it was never necessary to have held the referendum, He did it to keep the peace with some of his own MPs, and he completely believed that this is something he could and would win. It was a misjudgement.

My own very personal perception of David Cameron was formed many years ago, back in 2009. Up until that point I had taken him pretty much at face value, accepting his own view of himself, since this one particular incident in 2009 it has never again been possible to do this.

2009 was a difficult year for David Cameron, he had just lost his son Ivan and was clearly suffering from that. One of the first visits after the death was to our town, following the publication of a Health care commission report on Stafford Hospital, where he came to announce his policy on the NHS to the media with a backdrop of a group of bereaved relatives.

Our town was then in a period of turmoil, partly as a result of some serious misinformation headlined by the press. What I had expected was a statesman like intervention, bringing us back to a balanced view of the facts, pouring oil on troubled waters, helping to settle things down.  Instead we got inflammatory headlines, and a commitment to a process that would put the town through years of Inquiries, administration & distress, leading to a reduction in services. at the cost of many millions of pounds. The seeds of the continuing conflict between the current government and the NHS were sown in the misunderstandings of that time.

What bothered me from then onwards is that David Cameron seemed willing to feed off public anger as a means to fight the elections of 2009 and 2010. As 2009 continued and the expenses scandal broke he again rode the tide of public anger, trashing the reputation of the government of the day and of the authority of MPs in general in the process.

Cameron’s relationship with the right wing press has been throughout most of his career very close, at times uncomfortably close, as Leveson showed us. He was always able to rely on them to some extent to tell the story his way, until it came to the referendum, when the papers had their own agendas. Maybe this was as much of a shock for him as it was for Andrea Leadsom.

Perhaps all politics since the banking crisis in 2008 has been conducted in the shadow of an increasingly discontented public, and there is perhaps a certain justice in that someone who fuelled anger, and benefited from it should have had his political career finished by the tide that Bill Cash, quoting John Gower reminds us of.

"There are three things of such a sort that they produce merciless destruction when they get the upper hand," he wrote.  

"One is a flood of water, another is a raging fire and the third is the lesser people, the common multitude; for they will not be stopped by either reason or by discipline."

David Cameron leaves his successors and all of us with the challenging question of how to satisfy the conflicting and strident demands of the people.

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