“Brits don’t quit,” David Cameron told us on 21 June. Three days later he hold us that he would be doing just that – making reassurances that he would stay on as leader until autumn. He ultimately lasted less than 30 days. And now, less than two months later, Britain’s youngest Prime Minister since 1812 has sidled awkwardly towards the door with his tail between his legs, muttering something about “not wanting to be a distraction.” Let’s hope it hits him on the way out.
Here is a man who had every opportunity to leave office with a half-decent legacy. He took over a Conservative Party diminished by 13 years of Labour government and won two terms in office, first as a coalition government and then with a surprise outright majority. He saw unemployment reduced to near-record levels, and saw the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK; perhaps the one thing for which history might look upon him favourably.
But Cameron’s time in office presented him with plenty of chances to ruin his reputation and he welcomed many of them with open arms. Huge cuts to tax credits for working families (which had to be stopped by our unelected House of Lords) and Ian Duncan Smith’s merciless butchering of our benefits system are two of the clearest examples of the Cameron government’s ill-conceived austerity measures. Students found themselves saddled with three times the debt under the Coalition government, and now the NHS finds itself struggling to cope under our Health Minister’s ridiculous demands.
But all of these failures pale in comparison with Cameron’s greatest blunder: Brexit. For the sake of winning an election he offered the British public a choice that they were ill equipped to make and did nothing to make our choice any easier. He legitimised a growing wave of suspicion, xenophobia and outright racism in the United Kingdom, and in the process made it less united than it has ever been. And in the chaos and uncertainty that followed he washed his hands and declared that the mess was someone else’s problem.
In this post-referendum uncertainty, one of two things will happen. Either Britain will indeed leave the European Union and Cameron will go down in history as the worst Prime Minister in living memory. Or Theresa May’s talk of “Brexit meaning Brexit” will be all for naught; the country will regain some semblance of normalcy and history will barely remember him at all. For our sakes, I hope it’s the latter.