Wednesday 13 July 2016

Cameroon, Silver Spoon era. 

The May Day Parade begins. The Cameroon era ends a little sooner than expected. Only a little sooner as we know David Cameron was going anyway. Probably in 12 months or so time. He hasn't gone as he would have wished. And  he will now be as historically defined by the referendum he called, as Tony Blair is by the Iraq War he began. Not a legacy he would have chosen.

 How do we rate the Cameron era? Good, bad or just..meh!?

The referendum does rather define the weaknesses of his era.  Continuity New Labour was very evident. Cameron was one of the early Tories to realise that it wasn't possible to beat an election winning machine like Blair by opposing his populist policies. It seems obvious now, but not that long ago the Tories answer to Tony Blair's success was to try and attack all his popular measures. When that failed it was to point out the flaws and the contradictions and the cost of all the magic money. But the Tory media was not a patch on the Labour one. So the attacks failed. Worse, they rebounded. The 'Nasty party' was back.

Cameron saw all this and figured, if you can't beat them, join them. To the annoyance of very many in his own party. But he was right. It is only in very recent times that Tony Blair's star has faded. That spin doctoring every sentence in every provincial newspaper has been discredited. for years and years that was what worked. And Cameron wanted to win. So the never actually called, but absolubtely was, New Tory, was born.
Not defeating the dysfunctional Brown government outright was a bad blow. It should have been easy. And without the world economic crash and all those spending promises to out Brown, Brown it would have been. The Tories were well ahead and remained so up until the point that they spoke about making some cuts. Then the gap narrowed. 
And, with hindsight, we know the polling has been off for quite a long time, so don't really know how close it ever was. Untried Posh boy versus Financial Titan?

The coalition was probably Cameron's biggest success. There was instant talk of how long it would last. Six months to a year was considered good. Cameron managed to make it last the term. And in doing so he also destroyed the Liberal Democrats. 
He stopped the financial crash getting any worse for the UK. Steadied a very rocky ship in difficult waters. 

The defeat of Miliband was a s welcome as it was unexpected. So one and a half wins out of two. pretty good for a post war British PM.

Too much sofa cabinet. Too much of  clique. To much party centralisation. Silver Spoon toffs and a lack of any real, real vision other than keep the Trots away from power and make Britain a nicer place.

Too much government.  And too much politics playing. That continuity Blair again. Too much concern with how the media would play an event and not enough about the actual long term consequences of the event. Those '10s of thousands of immigrants' promises. "Cast iron". Even his 'making savage cuts' narrative for the first year, when few were made at all. All those 'Spins' eventually came back to bite. The internet and social media had rendered much of New Labour's manipulative methods obsolete. It was a mistake to persist with them.

And of course the biggest folly of all. Shooting the UKIP fox short term, by promising an EU referendum he didn't want or even need to call. This wasn't a Scottish one that was forced upon him by the destruction of Labour in Scotland handing a very unexpected majority to the SNP, who used their power to demand one. This was a referendum Cameron himself chose to allow.
That decision was made worse with the all too predictable  'Renegotiation with Europe' fiasco before the campaign had even begun. 

On paper, it all looked good. Promise a referendum that killed the Tory dissent and stopped the drift of voters to UKIPt. It put both liberals and labour, who refused to go along with it, on the unpopular side of the popular argument. A New Labour/Tory tactic from the best of their playbooks.
And the Tories were expecting a coalition anyway. No need to ever implement that manifesto promise.

But they won, and so it had to be delivered. 

Going early was the best option. Nothing in Europe was going to get any better in the longer term. probably much worse. The real mistake was firstly trying to renegotiate from a position of weakness instead of strength and secondly identifying himself so strongly as the leader of remain. 
He needn't, indeed, should not have, done either of those things. Plenty of government ministers available for those roles. By taking them on himself, Cameron ensured that if the remain ship went down, he would go down with it.

One of the things I liked most about the Cameron era is him personally. He looked like a prime Minister. spoke like one. Sounded like one. Was reassuring and confident. He looked like the British Minister wherever he was. The number of gaffes he made was minuscule. Considering this was a man who was televised every day at every occasion he ever attended for 10 years, that was pretty impressive.

Especially if you recall the lumpen troll that had come before him. A national embarrassment at any diplomatic event. A man who needed his own wife to hold his hand at a party conference of his own party as he was so incapable of leadership and gravitas.

It doesn't sound like much of an achievement.  

Cameron didn't fall asleep at the G8 with his tie in the soup.
Or tumble down the stairs of Airforce one. 

That's not the angle. 

Cameron looked, sounded and acted like a leader at a time that the country desperately needed a leader. His personal approval ratings were always well above his party. he was a very reassuring presence.

That should be remembered when his legacy is debated.


Anonymous said...

UKIP have threatened a "whirlwind" in an attempt to double their representation.

2 MP's then

Anonymous said...

Yep I agree with this. Good post.

For centrists-rightist Eurosceptics his legacy is incredible. Destroyed the LibDems, Destroyed the Labour party, got us out of the EU, left the Tory party as the dominant force in UK politics.

Now it is for May to destroy the SNP (easy, call Sturgeon's bluff) and to embrace the wider world showing that it can be done.

Antisthenes said...

I did not know what I thought of David Cameron but I must say I do now. I agree with everything you have written so that is one of my conundrums I no longer have.

CityUnslicker said...

Great Goalie, will always be remembered for the howler in the final though.

Luckily I was supporting the other team at the time.

mikef said...

My original impression of Cameron was that he was a sensible, reasonable man with a likeable disposition. That remains but I gradually realised that he lacked intellectual rigour and his greatest fear seemed to be that he might be labelled right wing by the Guardian/BBC. When he made asinine remarks such as sharing the proceeds of growth it became clearer that he was not an economic titan and his appointment of George Osborne confirmed this. I have watched just about every PMQs and often his shallowness is exposed. As was applauding Tony Blair when he stood down. His handling of the EU referendum echoed the Scottish one and demonstrated his contempt for democracy - i.e. bribe or frighten the public.

DtP said...

@Anon 9.37 - #totes agree.

I think Cameron has been massively learning on the job and he grew into leadership over time. I think his footnote will defo be the referendum but also gay marriage but the biggest thing, absolutely unheard of ever I think in British Politics for the last 400 years is he's absolutely annihilated all before him - the fact that he accidently shot himself is genuinely going to help ferment that legacy into something honourable, almost gallant.

Ukip - rump party, Labour - split by the looks of it, Lib Dems - fighting yesterday's battles in the back of a transit van. SNP - not really within his prevue. The first thing May did was jump on that centre ground and not set up camp but build a 5* hotel - she's there for the long term.

Sure, everyone's got 20:20 vision in retrospect but if we are to compare him to Blair - which is probably a cosmetic characterisation as Brown had spent ages beating up his party - but if Cammo is heir to Blair and we look at him again in 10 years - he'll be adored by conference, he'll be remembered as the guy who took us unreconstructed, neanderthallic Europhobes, backbiters, assassins and fruitcakes and gave us a Tory Party worth saving. A caring party, one that doesn't have to be nasty or appeal to sales managers from Surbiton who drive black audis and think the unemployed are scumbags - he's left us at Peak Tory.

I'm gonna miss the fella. Osborne, not so much but Cammo has been a great leader and totally by default an awesome big game politician.

His legacy is secure and I wish him and his all the very best.

E-K said...

Good post.

andrew said...

I remember how most people wanted to pretend Major never existed back in '92, but now (just my opinion), Major won an election, held the cons together, had an affair that was kept secret and 20 years later I think he was one of the better Con/Lab/LibDem leaders post Thatcher.

Some time needs to go by before we come to a judgement (and properly understand the pressures)

For better or worse a lot of that judgement will hinge on how May handles Brexit, and how the rest of the Eurozone manages itself over the next 10-20 years.

Those are outcomes completely outside his term of office over which he will have no influence or control.

He might be the PM that rolled a snowball down the hill and it became a nice snowman
He might be the PM that that rolled a snowball down the hill and it became a landslide that destroyed the village

hovis said...

I'd agree:
(i) he looked the part - polished public school speech, quiet confidence.
(ii) the centrism he pushed to against Blair was at first necessary for power, but post financial crash became outdated.

However his weakness, lack of understanding of long term effects, lack of principles, cronyism (political and financial), failure to act on finance (yes, Osbourne's remit, keeping him in place was tacit support.) means we kept afloat but are structurally worse off. As well as continuing to be a centralising, authoritarian, eroder of freedoms as much as the vile Blair govt ever was.

His legacy - (if enacted) will be the withdrawal from the EU. But amusing to see that the referendum is suggested that was "not needed". Of course after Brown signed Lisbon - without either referendum or GE approval, one might argue there was no need for such silly old fashioned constitutional niceties as requiring popular consent to alter the (uncodified) constutution. But the EU was looking to enter the next phase and Cameraon could not sign up to more integration without some form of aquiescence.

He will be judged by history for his non achievements.

rapscallion said...

Cameron was an utter arse, right from the word go. His "Heir to Blair" was not forgotten, and was perhaps indicative of his trying to be all things to all men - a la Blair. It didn't work then and it didn't work when "Call me Dave tried it out. He was in power but didn't know what to do with it - except waste it. There was no vision, no overarching idea - just the acquisition of power. Cameron came seriously unstuck when dealing with UKIP. Realising that he was in the process of losing large numbers of tory voters to UKIP and also garnering labour votes he had to do something drastic. By linking SNP and Labour as a possible future coalition he misjudged it badly, even fatally, because instead of ending up with another coalition (and the UKIP fox put to bed for another 5 years), he ended up with a majority. With Labour wiped out in Scotland and even UKIP supporters voting tory to keep SNP/Lab out, his majority was not what he had planned and so now he had to give us the referendum that the 3 major parties have promised but never delivered on.

I concur that his fatuous "re-negotiation" was a complete farce. He asked for nothing and got precisely that. By identifying so closely with the Remain campaign and sanctioning such blatant lies and threats with his close partner in crime - Osborne, his days were numbered.

Finally he did one thing that even Blair at his worst never did. He insulted a proportion of the population - the 4 million who later voted UKIP. You don't do that as PM. You are supposed to govern for all. Insulting people does not go down well at all.

So on June 24th, I was a happy man, out of the EU and Cameron out too. Happy days!

Anonymous said...


Cameron has overseen huge devolution: to schools, to local GP groupings, to the Scottish Parliament, to these new city regions, to the London mayor, and so on.

Blue Eyes said...

So CU you are drifting back to the Tories? Add another casualty to Cameron's legacy then!

Anonymous said...

CU is right. He is Joe Hart!

A great player and a sportsman but overconfidence led him down when it really mattered.

Jan said...

I wouldn't be surprised if he came back as PM later on. He's left with a good legacy and is very statesmanlike. He's not that old either. I imagine he could do with a good rest and to devote some time to his family. Some of us have moaned about him not being a bit more right wing but he was more or less forced to steer a more centralist course. He's definitely left things in a much better state than that which he inherited.

Thud said...

Well said BQ, well said.

Jim said...

The referendum showed what Cameron really was - a liar, and lacking in moral fibre. He lied about the 'renegotiation', he lied repeatedly throughout the referendum ('I'll stay on as PM regardless of the result', 'Brits don't quit') and then when the country needed him most he quit because he didn't want to do the hard yards on behalf of the country and let someone else have the glory. In other words another narcissistic liar politician in the Blair mode.

Blue Eyes said...

Osborne GONE.

Timbo614 said...

@BE So he has, that's one plus then :)

@BQ Well said. Like others I agree with nearly all of your post.

He took over at another tough time, it's easy to forget that the SS Great Britain was listing badly at that time. At least he has been able to get the pumps working and the ship a bit more upright. Shame he then hit an iceberg! But the iceberg damage will be patched and the ship can now sail into wider waters...

James Higham said...

Just checking if Bill got Administrative Affairs.

mikef said...

I ought to add that his last appearance at PMQs showed him at his best. Genuinely witty, but also devastating in his attacks. More suited to a leader of the opposition perhaps but effective and it was his last time.

Anonymous said...

Truly he was the Heir to Blair. I'm surprised no one has mentioned his support for the destruction of Libya and the attempted destruction of Syria.

The former led to the deaths of a couple of score British pensioners, gunned down on a Tunisian beach by people trained and armed in Libya, and also the boat exodus which is making Italy (and Calais) look like Sierra Leone.

The latter has given us Merkel's Millions and inter alia has altered the demography of places like Sweden irreversibly for the worse.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"The real mistake was firstly trying to renegotiate from a position of weakness instead of strength and secondly identifying himself so strongly as the leader of remain."


But there is a third - running such a relentlessly negative (indeed, comically so) campaign. Project Fear, once overdone, was never going to deliver the goods.

If he'd remained above the fray himself, and reined in the nonsense coming from Remain, he might well be in Downing Street now, congratulating himself on yet another miraculous escape.

dearieme said...

"I wouldn't be surprised if he came back as PM later on." My thought exactly, but if so I do hope he'll not be Blair-lite the next time.

dearieme said...

Actually, while people are being too kind about him, we should remember that he bombed Libya and wanted to bomb Syria. By contrast G Brown started no wars: if he ruined any country it was only us, which serves us right for voting labour.

Anonymous said...

There were a couple of really good articles in the Guardian (!) on why Leave won.

A view from the Remain campaign (Will Straw prop., chosen for his great success in ??).

"... lower-income, working-class supporters, who were far more sceptical about the case for remaining. It was this undefended flank that the leave side was targeting with promises to control immigration and divert EU subscription payments to the NHS. The remainers’ warning not to gamble with economic security was failing to resonate. “Emotional fear wasn’t credible because they felt their lives were already shit,” as one senior campaign source told me."

And that's given flesh here, by someone who walked from Liverpool to London during the campaign.

“Stafford, Cannock, Wolverhampton. Different towns, same message: “There’s no decent work”; “the politicians don’t care about us”; “we’ve been forgotten”; “betrayed”; “there’s too many immigrants, and we can’t compete with the wages they’ll work for”. Nobody used the word humiliation, but that’s the sense I got.

In Wolverhampton, the Express and Star newspaper was reporting on the fury from Wolves fans at the football club’s new shirt sponsor. It was to be the Money Shop, a payday lender. In Walsall, where I went to college, I walked around a town centre unrecognisable from 30 years earlier. Everywhere there were betting shops, dozens of them, and right next door to every betting shop was a pawnbroker or payday lender. It was a ghoulish form of mutualism, or symbiosis, the “natural” market at its most efficient.

I walked on. Birmingham glittered, a skyline of cranes and high streets of fashionable shops, a confidence, a bounce. But out of the city centre the familiar motifs returned: boarded up pubs and shuttered shops, leave posters in windows, and a proliferation of hand car washes. It began to make sense why these have blossomed in modern Britain: why invest in expensive automated machinery when labour can be sourced so cheaply.”

hovis said...

Anon@8.03am - excellent point about Libya ( and attempts to bomb Syria too) They came tomind after I had press send on my rant.

Anon 8.58pm: Yes I saw the latter article in Grauniad which I thougt was good. As to Will Straw - oxygen thief like his Pater the reverae midas touch which is quiote gratifying in a way.