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