David Cameron leaves be­hind him a legacy of fail­ure

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

David Cameron’s po­lit­i­cal epi­taph was carved in stone when he re­signed the morn­ing af­ter Bri­tons voted to quit the Euro­pean Union, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by EurAc­tiv.com with AFP.

Cameron had staged the ref­er­en­dum to try to unite his Con­ser­va­tive Party, where right-wing eu­roscep­tics were ag­i­tat­ing to leave the 28-na­tion bloc.

His ex­pec­ta­tion was that he would win the 23 June vote hand­ily and then push ahead with so­cial re­forms to crown his sec­ond term in of­fice. But the high-stakes gam­ble failed cat­a­stroph­i­cally.

At a stroke, Bri­tain was plunged into po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

Just as swiftly, Cameron’s own ca­reer was de­stroyed, des­tin­ing him to be re­mem­bered as the prime min­is­ter who reck­lessly or un­wit­tingly ended Bri­tain’s 43-year mem­ber­ship of the EU.

Cameron is due to step down on Wed­nes­day and new Con­ser­va­tive Party leader Theresa May will take his post.

“A time will come for re­flec­tion on the good in Mr Cameron’s lead­er­ship… on his fun­da­men­tally cor­rect vi­sion for a one­na­tion Tory party in pos­ses­sion of the cen­tre ground,” The Econ­o­mist said.

“It will surely be dwarfed by this gi­ant, na­tion-chang­ing mis­step, one guar­an­teed to scar the coun­try for decades and di­min­ish his place in the his­tory books.”

The son of a stock­bro­ker, Cameron was ed­u­cated at the elite board­ing school of Eton and at Ox­ford Univer­sity, where he was ad­mit­ted to the Bulling­don Club, a hard­drink­ing, so­cially ex­clu­sive stu­dent group.

He worked for the Con­ser­va­tives as an ad­vi­sor be­fore a stint in pub­lic re­la­tions, which ended when he was elected to par­lia­ment in 2001.

Cameron rose swiftly through the ranks of the party – which was then strug­gling badly against prime min­is­ter Tony Blair’s Labour gov­ern­ment – and was elected leader in 2005 at the age of 39.

At the 2010 gen­eral elec­tion, Cameron be­came the youngest pre­mier for 200 years but the cen­tre-right Con­ser­va­tives did not win enough seats to gov­ern alone and had to form a coali­tion with the cen­trist Lib­eral Democrats.

The coali­tion was dom­i­nated by spend­ing cuts as Bri­tain emerged from re­ces­sion, while for­eign pol­icy de­bate was largely hi­jacked by Con­ser­va­tive wran­gling over the EU.

Cameron gam­bled on a ref­er­en­dum when Scot­land voted to stay as part of Bri­tain in 2014.

It paid off, but only af­ter a fierce and di­vi­sive de­bate that some crit­ics thought should have served as a warn­ing for the EU ref­er­en­dum which was to fol­low.

Af­ter five years in coali­tion, the Con­ser­va­tives won a sur­prise clear ma­jor­ity in the May 2015 gen­eral elec­tion, al­low­ing them to rule alone.

The win meant that the EU ref­er­en­dum — first promised by Cameron in 2013 to pla­cate his restive party, but which many in West­min­ster say he never be­lieved would hap­pen — be­came a re­al­ity.

Cameron spent much of the rest of 2015 lob­by­ing other Euro­pean coun­tries for a deal to im­prove Bri­tain’s re­la­tions with the EU.

When this was an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary, it was de­rided as “thin gruel” by some Con­ser­va­tive MPs.

The bit­ter­est blows to Cameron came as cam­paign­ing got un­der way.

Some of his most loyal

lieu­tenants in­clud­ing jus­tice min­is­ter Michael Gove said they would cam­paign for Brexit, while the then Lon­don mayor, Boris John­son, also backed “Leave”.

For his part, Cameron’s warn­ings that the econ­omy would be badly hit by a Leave vote failed to cut through.

The anti-EU camp scored heav­ily with ar­gu­ments– de­rided by crit­ics as de­ceit­ful or pop­ulist – that by leav­ing, Bri­tain would curb im­mi­gra­tion and its present con­tri­bu­tions to the EU would be lav­ished on pub­lic health in­stead.

Although Bri­tain’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape is still shak­ing af­ter the Brexit quake, Cameron’s al­lies in­sist that his­tory will be kind to him.

They en­dorse his self-im­age as a “com­pas­sion­ate Con­ser­va­tive” who hoped to re­make Bri­tain as a more equal, tol­er­ant so­ci­ety.

They cite his sta­bil­i­sa­tion of the econ­omy through aus­ter­ity cuts; the in­tro­duc­tion of gay mar­riage in 2014; and closer trade ties with fast-grow­ing economies like China and In­dia.

But af­ter six years in of­fice, Cameron leaves a coun­try mired in its deep­est cri­sis since World War II – and he be­queaths his suc­ces­sor a “Europe prob­lem” that iron­i­cally is far worse than be­fore.

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