David Cameron’s very tidy innings as leader of the Conservative party…

I remember having a bit of a row with colleagues about whether David Cameron was going to be able to steer the Conservative party to success. By the time he took over in the wake of the party’s record third defeat at the hands of a Blair led Labour party, the Tories looked lost.

The abiding weakness of his leadership of the Opposition and later his Premiership was the promise he’d had to make to his Eurosceptics to get the job ahead of David Davies. And when the historians come to write his political epitaph Brexit will be it.

It may not have been the outcome he was looking for, but you can be pretty sure that from now his party will not be ‘banging on about Europe’ anymore. For the Tory Party, the matter is settled.

When in 2010 he put an end to the party’s 13-year long losing streak, many of his more implacable Tory Critics were apoplectic that he hadn’t won that election outright. Cameron took no notice and forged a coalition with the Orange

Cameron took no notice and did what he had to do and forged a coalition with the Orange Book enders of the Lib Dems. By the following election he and the Tories were the sole beneficiaries of that deal, and the Lib Dems were all but annihilated.

It meant that there was no way out but to hold the in-out referendum so long promised and never delivered (a sub-theme in his last PMQs today). He lost, and took the opportunity to make an early exit.

In doing so it forced his own party to quickly confront the reality of a decision many of it’s leading proponents had scantly considered (‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’).

But also, rather pleasingly for his party, it had a disastrous effect on a Labour party which had put far too much effort into avoiding the issue of Europe and has seen it crash and burn as a serious political party for who knows how long [18 years? – Ed].

All in all, it’s no surprise that he left feted by the whole of his party, from the elderly Peter Lilley on the right to Ken Clarke’s gentlemanly valedictory on the left. He may leave defeated in the referendum, but he leaves his successor as a one nation Tory PM in a one party state. A very tidy innings.

Whatever happens next may yet coursen that legacy, but all in all: a very tidy innings from Cameron D.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • kensei

    Yes, he’s certainly been feted by Tories.

    One party state, though? Which state is that?

  • Declan Doyle

    From an Irish perspective he was certainly far less objectionable than Tory prime ministers usually are. One of his greatest skills over the last six years where Ireland is concerned was how he carefully nurtured the strong British Irish relationship whilst at the same time almost completely ignoring Irish Unionism. He flirted with the DUP before the last election but as soon as he realised he didn’t need them he then snapped back to his natural instinct to reject all forms of hysterical fundamentalism, political or otherwise.

    Whatever his politics, he had a likeable character as PM and a deal of fairness not usually associated with Conservative leaders. But it is that fairness delivering both Scottish and Brexit referenda which might mean he will forever go down in history as the PM who lit the fuse that blew the UK apart.

  • Korhomme

    from now his party will not be ‘banging on about Europe’

    Are you sure? There are around 85 very sceptical knuckleheads who may not be anyway satisfied with what Theresa can negotiate.

  • eamoncorbett

    The one that voted for her .

  • hgreen

    He was shown to be all spin and no substance. An over promoted frat boy. He lasted one year with his majority and didn’t achieve any of his key economic targets. Confirmed that there is no such thing as compassionate conservatism and that they are just bunch of weasels with their snouts in the trough. He was a disaster for the country but obviously bloody brilliant for his mates in the city.

  • Karl

    The leader of the Conservative and Unionist party leaves after one indy ref in Scotland with another one on the way. He destroyed the lib dems at the expense of providing the gravitas to Nigel. He was outflanked and forced into a naive decision by the amateurs in UKIP. He revitalised ‘celtic nationalism’ and split the nation (not the party) down the middle over Europe. He has introduced uncertainty into the political, financial and economic world of the UK for the next 2 if not 5 years or beyond.
    If thats a tidy innings then we can expect May sitting on a pile of ashes at the end of her tenure to be described as a triumph as long as labour and the lib dems are in disarray.

  • kensei

    I thought they voted by the Tories, led by him.

    In any case, I think I need reminded about the number of Tories in Scotland.

  • Obelisk

    Agreed. I know Mick has a positive spin on things for Cameron in the blog, and from a purely short term perspective I cannot fault his reasoning.

    Long term, Cameron’s entire premiership will be overshadowed by the catastrophe he alone triggered to deal with an internal party problem.
    Yes, the Conservatives will no longer ‘bang on about Europe’, but only because the worst elements of the Tory party finally got their way.

    The Labour party is currently in ruins and is in no position to offer effective opposition in parliament, where it matters. Apologies to people who think waving a couple of placards at a demonstration will cause May to think twice about her decisions.

    However, Labour’s ruin means that the Conservative party now OWNS everything that is heading their way over Brexit. Unless Brexit is everything the leave campaign promised (slight spoiler, it will be so far from what they promised…) then within a few years the Conservative party may have presided over a brutal recession and, given how the Tories work, equally brutal austerity in return. Which will all be blamed on Cameron because of his decision.

    That and the increasing likelihood of Scottish independence. It’s no good winning one referendum on proposed independence when, through your own mistakes, you lay the foundation for the follow up referendum to succeed.

    In the long term, Cameron will pay a steep price for his foolishness in terms of his reputation, maybe even more so than Tony Blair has.

    We will all, however, pay a steeper price for it than he ever will.

  • Obelisk

    What more could they possibly want? They got their way, the UK is coming out of the European Union and they can wave their flag and talk about sovereignty all they want now.

    If they now expect to find the rest of Europe minded to give them a perfect deal, they will find their usual tactics of bluster, obstructionism and demagoguery will have little sway in the corridors of power in Berlin and Paris.

    I mean surely it must have dawned on them by now that in the coming negotiations Britain actually has very, very little in terms of leverage and that they should do everything possible to be as accommodating as possible in the hopes of getting a good deal.

    I mean, would they really just wave their flags,quote Churchill and demand May take the Hun down a peg or two?

  • mickfealty

    I was impressed with him from early on, I freely admit it. Though I am really not a fan of what his government actually did. It’s hard not to like him either in person or through the media.

    And he did give us a reader’s interview Q&A session early on:

    I would suspend judgement on how this is seen in the longer term. Everything he achieved (and a lot of it is poor to downright bad) will be subservient to Brexit.

    How Brexit will be seen in the longer term really depends on what happens next both in terms of the deal and what happens to the EU.

    Immigration and sovereignty are twin related issues that have different valences depending on where you go in England. Tory shires care about the latter much more than the former.

    Failure to deliver on immigration controls is nailed on here, but the raising of expectations by Brexit’s useful Labour fool Gisela Stuart means that unless Labour can develop answers to that problem it won’t be the tories who take the punishment for it.

  • mickfealty

    What he was was a charmer who allowed hatchett men like Lansley and Gove get on about their work largely unchallenged by a beguiled and confused Miliband led opposition.

    [And that’s a conversation Labour fatefully ducked by electing the politically unserious Jeremy Corbyn in preference to three Blairite/Brownite clones, instead of launching a proper inquest.]

    From a British nationalist pov he won the battle he needed to in Scotland, and lost the one he needed to in Europe. And in the end he had the good manners to leave when he was beaten.

    The City has got used to getting it’s way with Tory and Lab govts (even ‘Red Ken’). They wanted Johnson to take over and they’ve got May. I hope she has the b**** to take them on, but s/he who pays the piper, etc, etc, etc..

    This is where any serious Labour leader needs to go. Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and most of the rest of us are getting economically strangled by the powerful economic fulcrum of the capital.

    That needs policy (fiscal and infrastructural) not a fecking laundry list of demands that someone else ‘do the right thing’.

  • mickfealty

    The UK. Check the math?

  • Korhomme

    When the reality of whatever Brexit dawns, will they still be happy? Not enough/too much Brexit?

  • Gopher

    It was a very difficult wicket Cameron was asked to bat on, Blair was left an economy in great shape, Cameron had no such luxury. The EU referendum was always going to happen failure to deliver on a promise of one would make any government unelectable Labour or Conservative. Cameron’s problem was after the Scottish vote nobody believed the UK would vote to leave. (They were 1/8 to stay at noon on the day of the election with the bookies and the bookies are still in business. ) So when David went to the EU to negotiate a better deal he did not believe the UK would leave, the EU believe the UK would not leave so there was limited room for a deal that would have saved the UK’s position in the EU as nobody believed in any of the alternatives. That proved his undoing in his heart he was remain and he failed to judge the mood of the electorate on this.

    I think we have lost a good Prime Minister and I hope the nation can call on him again in any capacity when we need a man of his skills

  • Granni Trixie

    ‘Charm and good manners can help people get ahead in politics, as anywhere. It is however distinct from spin which the public see through.

    To narrow Cameron’s achievements to NI, it was no bad thing that he seems to have had an arms length approach,an antidote signalling to politicans here they had to take more control of Running things.
    At the same time he stepped up to the plate when necessary. I heard on the radio for instance that he wrote his own piece in response to Saville,, rejecting the ‘balanced’ speech written by officials (eg on one hand this, on the other…and “in the context of the times”) to deliver a proper apology.

    And on a superficial note – who will forget when he and his wife left their child in the pub – his charm Turned a potentially negative impact into a positive.

  • kensei

    And thus how the powerful get away with things. I never liked his policy, but he was a nice guy too. The converse of course is also true.

  • kensei

    I checked the Math and there are something like 10 parties in the House of Commons. If one is currently ineffective, that still leaves another 9.

    But that sort of comment is tone deaf to Scotland in any case, where even after a good Scottish Parliament election the Tories don’t even make half of the SNP’s seats or a third of the left wing seats, and the presence of Tories in government forever greatly increases the chances of it splitting off. But if you go to Wales, you’ll find Labour still in power, and in London too.

    Moreover, never write any major political party off until you’ve put a silver bullet, garlic and a stake in it. The Tories were dead in the early part of this century. FF were dead 4 years ago.

  • Nevin

    Tony Blair’s hand of history was on the shoulder but I didn’t see where David Cameron’s hand ended up.

  • Kev Hughes

    Math? There appears to be a categorical error in your response.

    ‘What day is it?’ Answer: Fish…

  • Nevin

    “the powerful economic fulcrum of the capital”

    John Hume phrased it more exotically in Personal Views:

    p130 … We do not expect the centre to solve our problems. We expect it to make it possible for us to resolve them ourselves. We are polygamists. Rather than put all our hopes in the Belfast or London
    baskets, we look for opportunities and partnerships with an entire harem of centres.

    p131 … in a polycentric world, promiscuity is an advantage

    Coming right down to the local level the arrival of superstores and the edge-of-town shopping centre in Coleraine sucked the small business life-blood from Bushmills.

  • Obelisk

    I have a suspicion they will move from complaining about being IN the European Union to complaining ABOUT the European Union and how it is doing down Britain and operating at an unfair advantage.

  • Declan Doyle

    It’s now a temporary state.

  • Simian Droog

    Tidy innings? My my, I seem to keep reading articles debating whether he’s the worst Prime Minister in 100 years, or ever. Slugger Report – finger on the pulse as always.

  • kensei

    From a British Nationalist point of view he had to concede substantial powers to Scotland to retain it, emboldened Scottish Nationalist sentiment, stoked English Nationalism to win an election and lost a critical constitutional election that puts the break up of the country back on the agenda. The balance of probabilities is that the UK will be much changed after the current events work themselves out, if it indeed exists. He also unleashed forces that have, at least temporarily, strengthened the ugly part of the British Right and if reports from the US are to be believed, diminished UK influence with that Administration and potentially the wider world.

    He may be a charmer, but he was a disaster if British Nationalism is your bar.

  • Gingray

    Jeepers Mick, you are laying it on a bit thick here.

    Cameron will go down in history as one of the worst Tory Prime Ministers the UK has ever had. Right from the off, he has made idiotic decisions that have come back to haunt his party, and the UK as a whole – this referendum for instance, regardless of its merits, brings with it a distinct possibility of the Scots breaking away.

    Looking to the decisions he made in Northern Ireland – his lasting legacy will be engaging in several sectarian pacts (both in 2010 and 2015) to help him in Westminster, and then quicly forgetting the place when the elections passed.

    A nice guy, but a very poor prime minister.

    As to the Labour party, really Mick, has history taught you nothing? Change will end up coming, much as it did for the Tories. I would not be surprised if back in 2003 you claimed something similar for Labour.

    And also, in relation to the Tories and Europe – without knowing what the Brexit will actually entail, how can you claim that they will no longer be banging on about Europe?

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Scotland told it needs to put up and shut up. Villiers resigning. Boris promoted. Hard Brexit on the way, with all that entails for NI, and here we are talking about bonefires! Can anyone clue me in what is happening offline in NI? Is there any NI minus DUP alliance of people thinking about new ideas? Or is innovation confined to Raithlin island?!!!!

  • Simian Droog

    Lest we forget. The 100 TOP Failures of Cameron’s governement.


  • Simian Droog

    So you were charmed by him because he acknowledged your existence? Even though he was a “bad guy” for the country? How very “Sixteen Candles”. 🙂

  • Gerry Lynch

    Michael Howard had pulled the Tories out of suicide mode after IDS’ ill-fated leadership. The 2005 election was better for the Tories than most expected at the time.