David Cameron was a visionary politician who achieved many feats thought impossible, especially under a Conservative Prime Minister. As an avowed Compassionate Conservative there isn’t a single politician out there that more closely represents my views than the outgoing Prime Minister. I was in Parliament the day he left, and it was a historic moment which left me immensely sad. Cameron brought a sharp wit, a warm heart, a One Nation soul, and an optimistic outlook to bear on some of the greatest political issues facing Britain over the last 11 years as Leader of the Conservative Party.
When Cameron took office we had a weakened Conservative Party which was obsessed with ‘fringe issues’ (immigration and Europe) and ignored what Blair’s Labour were working hard to address: matters of social justice, easing economic hardship, and “education, education, education”. Cameron has been able to bring those fringe issues to the mainstream in a moderate, thoughtful way, whilst also bringing a conservative focus onto the issues that people really care about, making the Conservative Party not only electable once more, but the natural party of Government.
Having been unable to reach a majority in 2010, Cameron’s Conservatives took the difficult and internally unpopular decision to form a Coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats. This bold decision put country before party, and offered stability and assurance to wavering markets, whilst allowing the Government to embark on a radical social agenda to transform huge sections of society.
In education, choice was put at its very core. With academies, the unshackling schools from the state, allowing a wider variation of specialisms and focus, parents can now opt for the education that best suits their children and their values.
The tax burden on the lowest paid has been lifted, those with broader backs are now paying the highest levels of income tax in generations. Those on minimum wage have been brought out of income tax altogether, so that they can best provide for themselves and their families.
With a focus on stability and responsibility the economy rallied. Employment hit its highest level in British history giving more people than ever the opportunities, rewards, and dignity that comes from a hard day’s work.
Sweeping reform to the benefit system was begun, to create a system where the vulnerable had all the support they needed, without trapping them in a cycle of welfare dependency meaning for the first time, it paid to work.
Gay rights scored a decisive victory with the formal recognition of marriage equality, which brought marriage into the 21st century as a committed union based on love, rather than an economic union based on having children.
Cameron went to Brussels to clobber the bureaucrats but when he didn’t get the deal he wanted, he offered the British people a referendum, despite his personal opposition to leaving, something I feel few politicians would ever do.
He made a passionate, emotional case for saving the Union, one of the most successful marriages in history, making clear that the Scots were loved and valued and better off inside the big British tent.
Furthermore he set in motion a radical decentralisation of power, pushing money and decisions down to the local level. Introducing Combined Authority Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners who would be answerable to the people for their decisions, unable to hide in Westminster and Whitehall, Cameron put power in the hands of local people.
He had the courage to set his commitment to foreign aid in stone, which would have been an easy cut to make, but he recognised that there is poverty and suffering beyond our shores which is unimaginable and that we have a moral duty to look after all the vulnerable. He did this under heavy criticism from not only his opponents but to those he called allies.
This is a fine legacy of which Cameron should be rightly very proud, and despite leaving Number 10 under a slight cloud, I am very confident that the hand of history will look kindly on him. As someone who is a Conservative who values social justice, compassion, and freedom, I am grateful for the example he set and the inspirational values he championed and represented every day of his tenure.
It was precisely for this reason that I was initially horrified at the prospect of a Theresa May premiership.
She has played her policy cards very close to her chest and I had her pegged as someone much further to the Right than her first speech as Prime Minister might suggest. Her promises to help those families who are ‘just managing’, to tear down social, legal, and economic barriers that hold people back, and for Britain to go out into the world as a positive force for good everywhere was music to my ears.
Having appointed three optimistic ‘Brexiteers’ to the three roles involved in our exiting of the European Union, she has shown her honest embrace of the democratic decision to leave, despite her having sided with Remain, albeit with a reluctance. This demonstrates her commitment to the unity of the Party, signalling that going forward ‘Breixteers’ and ‘Remainers’ will not be judged on their position on Europe, but on their political talents and loyalty to the ideals of the Party.
To have appointed our first female Lord Chancellor to an office that has been filled exclusively by men for over a millennium is visionary. To have put Justine Greening, a gay, comprehensive schooled woman to the posts of Education Secretary and Minister for Equalities shows her commitment to these vital roles. Having got through the door herself on merit, May has appointed a significant cohort of ladies to her Cabinet, all of whom are sterling candidates, showing how the best way to get a bit of girl power is through hard graft, not through demeaning all-women shortlists and pink buses which reduce us all to the contents of our underpants.
With many of my reservations seemingly soothed, I think we can all look forward to a substance-not-style Government committed to tearing down barriers and helping each and every one of us achieve our full potential in a free and competitive; caring and principled United Kingdom, one built for everyone, not just the privileged few.