For many, David Cameron will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. According to the Independent, Cameron was the U.K.’s worst Prime Minister in over 100 years. Cameron’s decade-long leadership of the Conservative party will soon come to an end, and his legacy will be as the man who led the U.K. into walking out of the European Union. It is ironic that when Cameron took the leadership of the Conservative’s, it was as a unifying force. Cameron was the man who could unite his party by answering the European question for once and for all. After announcing his resignation in the wake of losing the Brexit vote, Cameron will doubtless be reflecting on the fact that he was the architect of his own destruction.
The seeds of Cameron’s downfall were laid, not when he called the referendum on EU membership, but in the run up to the 2010 general election. It was at that point that Cameron’s campaign raised the issue of immigration, blaming the increase in the numbers of economic migrants on his political opponents. In 2010, Cameron failed to win a majority and by entering into a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats he sowed the seeds of discontent within his own party.
By the time of the 2015 election,Cameron saw that his chances of forming a Government were slim. Everything pointed to another hung parliament, and his party feared that the United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] were set to decimate the Conservative vote. As a result, Cameron’s campaign took a sinister turn and ultimately that change in direction has cost him his job. To head of UKIP Cameron had to fight on a platform that negated their influence. At that point, the rhetoric moved to immigration, especially immigration from the less wealthy parts of the EU.
By doing so, Cameron opened the door to the anti-EU hawks in his own party and the agenda shifted forcing Cameron to promise a referendum. As pointed out in the New York Times David Cameron must rue the fact that he has failed to win his biggest battle, the one “for the soul of the Conservative party.”
Whilst the Financial Times list a host of mistakes Cameron made his fatal mistake was swaying voters to back him instead of UKIP. To do so, Cameron opened up the immigration debate and promised a referendum on EU membership. History tells us that Cameron’s approach won him the 2015 election but his wafer-thin majority allows euro-sceptics to force Cameron into a referendum much earlier than he would have liked. Ironically just 13-months later those decisions have cost Cameron his political life.
It is ironic too that Cameron denied a referendum vote to 16 and 17-years-olds. Had he followed Scotland’s lead Cameron would have won the referendum and the UK would be remaining a member of the EU.
Ultimately, Cameron’s decisions in the run up to last year’s general election have cost his political life. The Independent claims that Cameron will “go down in history as the man who killed his country.” In a further irony, it is very likely that by losing the EU vote Cameron will also bring about the end of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted overwhelmingly for continued EU membership and Scottish Nationalist are already pushing for another vote on independence. Where Scotland goes Northern Ireland may well follow for they too backed EU membership. In time a united Ireland within the EU may prove both politically and economically attractive to the Irish.
They say a week is a long time in politics and Cameron must be looking on aghast and wondering how he, as a supposed unifying force, has torn the heart out of his country and left both the country and his party more divided than ever.
Sad as it may seem that is David Cameron’s legacy to the world.
[Photo by Matt Dunham/AP Images]