Goodbye, David

As David Cameron leaves No 10, his legacy is being scrutinised.  I have to say that I found the glowing tributes coming from his Cabinet colleagues as they entered Downing Street yesterday pretty nauseating.

Much of the news commentary has been way too positive.

I am dreading the inevitable fawning over him that’s going to happen as he faces his last Prime Minister’s Questions. I will not be happy if, as they did for Blair, any of our lot indulge in any applause or standing ovations for him.

Let’s look at some of the key compliments people are paying him:

Stabilise the economy?

Well, do you remember the 1980s when the recession lasted for years because the Tories insisted on cutting public spending beyond what was sensible? Well, this time they were prevented from doing so by the Liberal Democrats in coalition. They wanted to cut further and faster. It was Nick Clegg and David Laws, by and large, who saw that common sense prevailed. Even then, some of their ideas weren’t put into practice because the Tories wouldn’t have it. Some of us felt that even the Liberal Democrats in Government too far but at least the economy was starting to do well. Until, that is, David Cameron’s actions have led to a spectacular crash in the value of the pound. More money was wiped from the country in the days after the referendum than we ever paid to the EU. And that’s only the start.

Same sex marriage?

Well, he didn’t really. The person who drove that through Government was Lynne Featherstone, backed up by Theresa May. Cameron regretted it because of the fuss his backbenchers made. He couldn’t even get half of them to go through the lobbies in support of the measure. Nick Clegg was the first leader to enthusiastically embrace the concept of same sex marriage and did so even ahead of the 2010 election.

He won two elections and a referendum?

Well, he managed to get just over a third of the votes cast, both times. The first time, he couldn’t secure a majority, the second time he did so by scaring Middle England into thinking that Ed Miliband governing with the SNP would ruin all our lives. Do you know what? I’d take that over his Tory majority.

And, actually, the Scottish referendum should have been won by a lot more. Cameron and Osborne had so little clue about Scotland that they wanted to impose a referendum on their terms when the SNP won its mandate to hold one. That would have been so counter-productive. It was the good sense of Michael Moore that ensured a more pragmatic attitude to the referendum process. Unfortunately, the Tories learned from the referendum win that scaring people was the way to win referenda. In fact, the reason people in Scotland voted No was because they weren’t convinced by the Yes campaign’s assertions. Osborne went too far. When he came up to Edinburgh and told us we couldn’t share the currency, he over-egged the pudding and turned people off. There was an opportunity to present a positive vision of the UK’s future that might have reduced the Yes vote and held back the SNP tsunami that happened in 2015.

Until recent weeks, the moment of Cameron’s Premiership when I had least respect for him was when he emerged from No 10 on the morning after the Scottish referendum. He could have given an open, inclusive, magnanimous, forward looking speech. Instead he made a grubby little oration designed to pick a fight with Labour over English Votes for English Laws.

That was Cameron all over – going for the short term politics without looking at the long term effect.

I never warmed to him. I’m naturally suspicious of Tories. However reforming they may appear, you will often find some pretty unpleasant views if you look beyond the surface. I found an interview he gave to the Politics Show in early 2010 particularly chilling.

Anyway, none of this has made me as chilled to the bone as the words that came from Conservative leader David Cameron this morning on the Politics Show.

The moment a burglar steps over your threshold……they leave their human rights outside

I mean, what cheap, populist rubbbish. If you take his words to their logical conclusion, they could be taken as an incitement to virtually anything.

Now, burglary is horrible. I have friends whose house has been done over twice in the last few years and I’ve seen how traumatised they were. I’m not suggesting it’s soemthing that shoud go unpunished. Let’s get that clear before I get any “you’re soft on crime” thrown at me.

However if a burglar “leaves his human rights outside” what is Cameron giving licence to? Kicking them where it hurts? Bopping them over the head with a frying pan? Stabbing them? Calling your mates over to give them a good hiding?

I mean, if these people have no right to be treated as human beings, where do you stop?

I found it quite scary to hear such nonsense coming from somebody who thinks he’s going to be Prime Minister in a few months.

David Cameron should be leaving office in disgrace for what he has done to our country. All of us (apart from the super-rich, of course), will be paying the consequences of his folly for decades to come. There is no way Brexit can happen without us being in a worse situation. The collapse in the pound and the markets is only the start. He did not need to hold this EU referendum. He did it purely to avert a civil war in his own party because he was such a weak leader. And it’s not as if he wasn’t warned. Much has been made of Mystic Clegg but David Laws’ Coalition makes it very clear that Clegg warned Cameron not to do this and what would happen if he did as far back as 2012.

Taking that risk with the country is unforgivable. Even if he had done a huge amount of good in his time as PM, this would utterly negate it. As it is, he will be remembered as the person who needlessly crashed a recovering economy and dashed the opportunities of a generation of young people.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon mcgrath 13th Jul '16 - 9:14am

    I’m a bit confused. Lib dem policy was to hold an in/out referendum if there was a treaty Change. Why was that ok if Cameron holding one was wrong ?

  • There was never going to be a treaty change. That’s the big difference. This was a totally unnecessary folly.

    Not only did he venture on this foolish course, he was absolutely rubbish at fronting the campaign to stay. Lukewarm at best. His performance on tv was atrocious and the messaging was terrible. No positivity and all positive voices were marginalised.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Jul '16 - 9:22am

    And reading David Laws’ 22 Days in May, it was apparent that we were fully signed up to accelerated deficit reduction in the pre-meets before entering negotiations with the Tories. One might have thought that we would have held to out manifesto position on the timescale for reducing the deficit, but no!

    This was a disastrous policy which along with our timidity on monetary policy delayed recovery for three years. The cost? Untold quantities of life chances lost.

  • Well said Caron

  • Caron: think you are a trifle unfair. Overall and on balance he did pretty well. Ministers may pilot things through but like any organisation it has to have the known backing of the leader, the Prime Minister. Would you be saying the same if the coalition had been Lib Dem led with a Lib dem P M and the items you refer to were piloted by Conservatives?

  • ………………. I will not be happy if, as they did for Blair, any of our lot indulge in any applause or standing ovations for him…………

    Well, Caron,prepare to be unhappy…I gather several of our 8 did give him a standing ovation…

  • Barry Snelson 13th Jul '16 - 1:18pm

    I don’t think the referendum, of itself, was a terrible thing. UKIP expressed a point of view about Europe that was not just a Tory boil that needed to be lanced but a national one.

    The crisis though was in demonising the EU in the first place and his stance of promising to get major concessions from his pre referendum negotiations. There is nothing worse than creating high expectations and then returning empty handed.

    He should have campaigned on forming alliances in like minded Euronations and proposed working within the EU system for EU reform as his remain pitch.

    His inconsequential negotiations depicted the EU as the UK’s enemy when we already had an excellent deal.

    His inability to judge characters meant he fielded the worst possible voices for remain (including the widely disliked Osborne for example).

  • What graceless rubbish. You’d think Lib Dems would be grateful to the man for being given their only chance at power in decades, if nothing else.

  • Martin Land 13th Jul '16 - 2:11pm

    Happy to clap him as he goes. So long as he’s gone.

  • @expats I only saw Nick and Alistair and I might let them off as they were both in his Cabinet. I don’t think the other ones did.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Jul '16 - 4:07pm

    I would have given him a standing ovation, like Blair got. He didn’t do an Iraq and he risked his life to serve the country. Without the Conservatives we wouldn’t have met the NATO 2% target, so I found it a bit rich for Lib Dems in the aftermath of Chilcot to criticise Tony Blair for not providing the military with the best equipment. Is the idea that funding the military properly doesn’t matter much because Lib Dems want our allies to do the heavy lifting instead? He also argued passionately for our place in the EU.

  • @Bill Le Breton: The Lib Dems gave in on cuts in 2010-11, but overall, the cuts that were instituted during the coalition were broadly similar to what Labour would have done and way behind what the Tories would have done alone – and in fact were continually agitating to do during the coalition years. We knocked them back every time.

  • David Allen 13th Jul '16 - 4:30pm

    “Europe …. not just a Tory boil that needed to be lanced but a national one.”

    Er, I think the boil has now lanced the patient!

  • Matt (Bristol) 13th Jul '16 - 5:34pm

    Z, well he didn’t ‘give’ the party its ‘only chance’.

    That chance – ie the position the party found itself in a hung parliament – came about by the dint of electoral support and campaigning by the party in the 2010 election resulting in the number of MPs elected, combined with Labour and the Tories both failing to do as well as either had hoped.

    And there was definitely another offer on the table in those days – limited and flawed as it was – and that was from Labour.

    So the LibDem rise to power was not in any way solely Cameron’s creation.

    To be sure, Cameron deserves credit for the fast, prepared, decisive way he committed himself to the plan of coalition and made the gamble work – or at least, work for him and his party. Also, I can see that there are several targets other than Cameron for LibDem anger about how badly coalition ultimately turned out, and he was under no obligation to make it easy for us.

    Really, it seems to me he just saw the Clegg deal not as the ground-breaking change in British political dialogue it could have been and it sometimes suited him to pretend it was, but as a temporary staging post on his wangling way towards a longterm aim of more complete Tory control.

    He is (or was) clearly an able and – in the short-term – a successful politician.

    True, he also had moments of compassion, moral sense and gut instinct that – sometimes – worked out well for the nation, but more usually when someone else was pushing him that way too. How much he ‘led the way’ is open to question.

    But really, he’s been a party-centred short-termist first and foremost (particularly when paired with his chosen running-mate, Osborne), and it is extremely difficult for me to conceive of him as a national leader of great vision, or even as someone with a driving vision that was unachieved.

  • @Matt (Bristol) “Really, it seems to me he just saw the Clegg deal not as the ground-breaking change in British political dialogue it could have been and it sometimes suited him to pretend it was, but as a temporary staging post on his wangling way towards a longterm aim of more complete Tory control.

    He is (or was) clearly an able and – in the short-term – a successful politician.”

    Much the same could be said about Nick Clegg, only the LibDem party decided that it not being in power was a more comfortable position to be in.

  • @Roland; Really? I thought it was the electorate, responding to Clegg’s actions, that gave us our worst election performance in history that decided we shouldn’t be in power or remotely near it anymore.

  • @Paul Holmes – it was the LibDem party that ruled out a second coalition and to some extent encouraged the go it along segments of the Conservative party. Remember the opinion polls were clear the public would have voted for more coalition, just that wasn’t an option on the ballot paper…

  • If the public wanted “more coalition,” then more of them would have voted for the Liberal Democrats, a very clear option on the ballot. 92% if them did not.

  • David Garlick 14th Jul '16 - 4:27pm

    Good old David was well supported by the Speaker who did not manage to call Tim Farron despite the Liberal Democrats being in Government with Dave for 5 of his six years in charge and who were in large part responsible for the stability that so crow about creating. (It was Dave himself who made an acknowledgement of Nick Clegg in one of his answers.) I know that the Conservatives have worked hard to expunge Lib Dem successes from the records (except those they have claimed as their own) but I did not think that the speakers Chair was a place to have that unofficial policy flourish.

  • If it’s not a breach of parliamentary privilege, I think the Speaker is a p…… l……., p[…. …… Fill in the gap. Appalling that the Leader of our Party not called given the nature of the event.

  • Simon Banks 14th Jul '16 - 9:34pm

    He’s an intelligent, capable, hardworking guy, not intolerant and, I suspect, decent enough.

    However, I think historians will judge him the UK’s most disastrous Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain; and before that, I don’t think even Lord Aberdeen of the Crimean War bears comparison, so we’d have to go back to Lord North and the War of American Independence. Moreover, Chamberlain had a solid record as a minister and was a man of principle and honesty. But both adopted a disastrous policy which deeply hurt this country and others – and both will be remembered for this. Nothing Cameron achieved (and perhaps his greatest achievement was, with help, making the coalition an effective and stable government at a time when weak and unstable government could have been more than usually damaging) compares with the damage he has done by one cynical manoeuvre and gross misjudgment. Well, he’s not yet 50, so he might achieve something positive in another field. Chamberlain did in a way: his support for Churchill against Tory pressure for the UK to make peace with Nazi Germany in 1940 may have been crucial.

  • Derek Campbell 14th Jul '16 - 11:07pm

    I don’t like prejudiced generalisations. I would find a sentence “I’m naturally suspicious of blacks/gays/christians/baptists/foreigners etc” to be a little troubling. If it’s okay to be naturally suspicious of one value system (being a tory) why is it not okay to be naturally suspicious of another value system (being a muslim)? Put another way, if it is alright to dislike tories for being tories, it should be alright to dislike catholics for being catholics. For me this is unacceptable.

    There are aspects of policy of (probably) all political parties that I don’t agree with, but I am not naturally suspicious of the people that espouse them. I may rationally become suspicious if their motives don’t stand up to scrutiny, or the outcomes appear to be on balance unfavourable. At the same time I think I possess a degree of scepticism that causes me to make a critical appraisal of information and opinions. I would be reluctant to label that as mistrust. I suggest that politics is better conducted with an open mind, and a key appeal of the LibDems has generally been that open mindedness. I (naturally) trust that will remain, I (rationally) suspect that I will be disappointed.

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