What David Cameron’s return says about British politics
DCameron’s anger he always looked the part. Even the most powerful man on Earth was taken aback by how easily the British Prime Minister was jacketless, tieless. Barack Obama, the former president of America, noted that Mr Cameron “had a wonderful command of the issues, a facility with language and an easy confidence of someone who had never had too much trouble in his life “. Mr Cameron had the qualities to be a great prime minister: intelligence, diligence, a quick wit and a smooth manner. Instead, he managed to be one of the worst.
Seven years after Mr Cameron left office in 2016, after losing the Brexit referendum, the former prime minister has returned to frontline politics as foreign secretary. The decision of Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, Suella Braverman, the tough home secretary, cleared the way to fire. James Cleverly, a barrel-chested conservative, was tapped to replace Ms Braverman, leaving a vacancy as the country’s top diplomat. And so, on the morning of November 13, the familiar figure of Mr Cameron walked through the door of 10 Downing Street again.
Mr Cameron’s return is very special, given his record. A man who shaped British foreign policy will now help shape it again. A government struggling to figure out how to fix public services has hired the man who caused their current problems. A man who has abandoned his job is now painted as an example of duty. In British politics, the appearance of ability is more important than the evidence of it. Performance trumps Aesthetics. Nothing shows this more than Mr Cameron’s revival.
A plausible manner hides many of Mr. Cameron’s faults. In foreign policy he had many mistakes. For half a millennium Britain aimed to ensure that Europe would not unite against it; as a result of the referendum he promised to call in 2013, Mr Cameron led it in three short years. He was too dove on China. Chinese companies have been roped in to invest in Britain’s infrastructure, from telecoms to nuclear power stations – investment that would now have to be written off as an unwanted Artex roof. When Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea in 2014, Britain was supposed to be one of Ukraine’s security guarantors but Mr Cameron let France and Germany take the lead. ‘negotiate peace.
The Liberals adhere to an undivided view of Mr Cameron’s politics, referring to him as an obstacle against republicanism. Centrists are rejoicing that Ms. Braverman is gone, but he was the one who first promised the impossible on immigration. His government pledged to bring the numbers of new arrivals down to less than 100,000 a year while also living in the EU, who wanted the free movement of people. Between the government’s promise to cut immigration and Britain’s membership of the bloc, something had to give. That thing was Britain’s membership of the EU.
Mr Cameron’s image is that of a successful political strategist brought to a standstill by one mistake: the Brexit referendum. Of course Mr Cameron’s philosophy of fiscal conservatism combined with social liberalism has never been a popular view. In 2010 Mr Cameron was unable to win an outright majority even after the recession. In 2015 it took a tantrum in Britain’s Celtic fringes – when the south-west of England abandoned the Liberal Democrats and Scotland suspended Labor – for Mr Cameron to win his smallest majority since the 1970s. Mr Cameron won much smaller vote shares than either Theresa May or Boris Johnson. There are not many Cameroonians in Britain. Outside of some newspaper pages, it never existed.
After the chaotic trial of Liz Truss’s short-term government, Mr Cameron’s own economic policy could be painted as cautiously conservative. It was anything but. Austerity was a radical experiment, and it largely failed. The size of the state was not permanently reduced; his tax cuts were not elected; Years of underinvestment, which began under Mr Cameron, have led to a reduction in schools and hospitals. It is precisely in comparison to that that Mr. Cameron looks cautiously.
Old friends have praised Mr Cameron’s sense of duty in returning to government. But he did not have to disappear from public life due to Brexit. Mr. Cameron was once criticizing a prospect BP because he was asking if he could be made a minister. “You will see that being a Member of Parliament on the backbench is the greatest honor you will receive in your life,” said Mr Cameron. “When I stop being prime minister, I will return with great pride to the backbenches as the Member of Parliament for Witney, for the rest of my life.” In reality, Mr Cameron served for eight weeks on the backbenches before he left. When it would have been more useful, in the years of Brexit between 2016 and 2019, Mr Cameron abandoned his position. Now that he is tired of private life, he has returned.
Manners make a mandarin
After an infamous display of Mr Johnson’s tenure as prime minister, Westminster wallahs are projecting an air of respectability on Mr Cameron. But he embarrassed himself out of the office. Almost every major British politician tries to fill their boots once they leave Parliament, but most do so quietly and quietly. -effective. In contrast, Mr Cameron lobbied on behalf of failed supply chain payments firm Greensill Capital to reduce publicly released text messages to cabinet ministers (“I know you’re monastically busy – and doing a good job, anyway”. ).
Such registration is clearly not a bar to high office. Mr Cameron has returned largely because Mr Sunak is desperate. It may reassure some southern Tory voters, given the former prime minister’s narrow base. Mercifully, he will do less damage as foreign secretary than he did as prime minister. But the truth is that Mr. Cameron has a good reputation in some areas because of how he comes across rather than what he actually did. It still helps to look the part. ■