In the UK, there’s an unwritten rule that Prime Ministers are compared on a scale of Chamberlain to Churchill.
Neville Chamberlain being the Prime Minister who championed the cowardly “appeasement” approach to German (illegal) re-armament and expansionism and Winston Churchill being, well, the Prime Minister who reversed that failed policy and guided the country to victory.
How might David Cameron compare on that scale?
He entered the position as leader of a coalition government. Many commentators suggest that he might have won a majority but for the conscious leap to the left of his party from a free market position to a more social-democratic one. This was his strategy to counter the successful move to a more centrist position by the Labour Party. It was argued at the time that the fact Labour could be successful by being more like the Conservatives was a great data point to suggest sticking with traditional Conservative policies.
Nonetheless, he had to run a compromise government for his first term, which resulted in the concession to his party’s core to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
His next term was with a small majority so without much of the horse-trading of the previous four years but the “damage” was done by then; the referendum was locked and loaded.
Although the Conservatives were originally the party who took Britain into the Common Market (the precursor to the EU) in 1973, the party had since grown to regret the move. Perhaps a clue being in the name “Common Market”; the original referendum sold the idea of a trading block, not the United States of Europe project that later emerged.
During the build up to the Brexit referendum, Cameron made much of his efforts to renegotiate the terms of membership with the EU. Brave talk was uttered about “red lines” and “no deal being better than a bad deal”. As any negotiator worth his coin knows, a BATNA is only any good if you’re prepared to actually accept it. The deals he brought back from Brussels were lip service and meaningless and he, like all of us, must have known this.
Yet, rather than follow the wishes of the core of his party and campaign to leave the EU, Cameron chose to campaign for the status quo. The problem being, of course, is there is never such a thing as the status quo, the day following a “Remain” vote there would have seen a massive increase in the “ever closer union” rhetoric from the EU. The voters knew this too.
Nevertheless, “Project Fear” was implemented in attempt to scare the voters away from the Brexit option. The stock market would crash, the pound would be toast, the crops would die in the fields, a swarm of radioactive locusts would eat newborn babies, etc.
None of which happened, as Cameron candidly admits in this “hot mic” recording.
Either David Cameron is a coward, refusing to make the hard decisions at every opportunity or he is a traitor, willing to sell his country to foreign interests contrary to the benefit of the British.
Over time, we may see the method of comparison for British Prime Ministers is reset to use the Cameron-Churchill scale.
4 Replies to “We may need a new scale”
May a Brit be permitted two small corrections?
1) The Conservative Party had not really come to regret the move into Europe since Ted Heath’s day. There had always been a very vocal minority of those who were opposed, and they had caused problems for John Major in the early 1990’s when he had to attempt to govern with a minority. He famously called them the “bastards” – another on-mic episode! Cameron attempting to govern with a minority and coalition meant that he had the same problems, and he attempted to do something about it with the referendum. You are right to say that opposition to the EU was growing as it changed its nature from the “Common Market”, but the majority of the Parliamentary Conservatives were pro-European. And remain so!
2) “Either David Cameron is a coward, refusing to make the hard decisions at every opportunity or he is a traitor, willing to sell his country to foreign interests contrary to the benefit of the British.” There is a third option: both, surely?!
My point about the Conservatives’ attitude to the EU is that, as the Socialist project unveiled itself, it became clear the EU’s goals were anathema to the free market core of the party. Apologies if I misrepresented the size of the internal opposition to the EU.
Yes, I think he is a coward and his negotiations with the EU resembled the actions of a traitor.
There is a third option: both, surely?!
As has been said before on the internet, embrace the healing power of “and”.
I will indeed embrace the “and” in this case.