David Cameron – Hero or Zero?

After much criticism, David Cameron is defended by Matt Day

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After David Cameron announced this week that he would be stepping down as Member of Parliament for Witney, triggering a by-election, many have reacted with outcry. Firstly, there was an announcement that he would not step down in the wake of the vote for Brexit, and did, followed by a statement that he would continue as an MP.

However, despite this, the criticism for Cameron from many Conservatives and the wider public, is unfair.

It is completely understandable that he has chosen to stand down as an MP. In an interview explaining his decision, the former prime minister said that he did not want to be a “distraction” and that it was very difficult for him to continue on the backbenches.

He has made the right decision in this regard. Every vote against Theresa May, be it with his conscience or for political gain, would be front page on the national press. With her reshuffle and disposal of some key Cameron-era figures like Michael Gove and George Osborne, May signalled a new era had begun.

With Cameron off the backbenches, this can continue without any needless interruption. Indeed, George Osborne’s seat, Tatton is also due to be abolished. If you’re a betting man, put your money on Osbourne following his former counterpart out the door and not contesting a new seat in 2020.

Both of them can venture off into the private sector in advisory roles or rake in the speaking fees from private events, and so they should. Politicians shouldn’t be forced to end their careers at 40 or 50 just because they’ve removed themselves from public office.

History will certainly be kinder to Cameron than the current hostility that faces him. When Tories reflect, they will remember a man who managed to wear down a strong New Labour, re-invent the Conservative Party’s image and win the Party its first General Election for 20 years.

As for the wider public, they will no doubt remember him as the man of the cuts, the Scrooge Prime Minister, the Prime Minister who gambled with Europe and lost.

Actually, it is worth remembering everything the former prime minister achieved. He passed same-sex marriage into law, brought the deficit down from an economy-crashing ten percent of GDP to five percent and brought employment up to a record high.

External factors are the real reason that his ride as prime minister was not easier. Had he taken over in a period of economy stability, rather than recession, he could have pushed on with the plans for a new nation he had vocalised in early 2006.

Given what the former prime minister had to deal with, he did a remarkable job. Ultimately, with regards to the European Referendum, he delivered on his promise. It would have been easy for him to ignore the issue of Europe, or arrange a renegotiation without a referendum.

Even though Cameron lost, and some of his behaviour during the referendum was questionable, he still delivered. In truth, he will likely be remembered as that, the prime minister who delivered.

He delivered deficit reduction, reorganisation of the NHS, welfare reform, a referendum on Europe and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Although, the new era of Conservative Party politics is certainly well underway. Theresa May looks set to push on with a new revolution of grammar schools, a more delicate approach to deficit reduction, as well as major abandonments of key Cameronite personnel and flagship policies like the academies programme.

As for the other prominent figures of Cameron’s final cabinet, Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove and George Osborne, they will have to craft out a new role on the backbench. Gove spoke in the Chamber on Monday, during Justine Greening’s statement on education, in support of grammar schools. What’s the betting he’s back in the cabinet before 2020?

Now, as we move towards Conservative Party Conference and the triggering of Article 50, Cameron will be a missed figure. His clever quips at PMQs have been attempted by May, but it is likely she won’t stick with them. Cameron was a spark, a bit of flair, the heir to Blair, and in time, remembered as a good prime minister.

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