By Senior Campaign Agent Eric Kostadinov
David Cameron may well be remembered as the Prime Minister who led Britain out of the European Union. Here we learn all about his time in office, and offer countering opinions on his Prime Ministerial tenure. Was the former Tory PM economically competent, or a gambler, risking Britain’s global status?
David Cameron became PM in 2010, following an agreement with the Liberal Democrats to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives. He took the Conservatives to power on the back of 13 years of opposition, and the failed leaderships of William Hague, Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard. Cameron attempted to modernise the Conservatives, and was more socially liberal than previous Tory leaders.
However, the financial crash of 2007 meant that his time in office will be characterised by austerity. The economic plan under his stewardship focused on cuts to public spending to reduce the deficit, and a reduction in unemployment to increase tax revenue. Despite some governing difficulties and trailing behind Labour in the polls for much of his first term in office, Cameron and the Conservatives secured a surprising majority victory in 2015, with the Tories seats and vote share both rising. Post 2015, Cameron will be remembered for offering a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Whilst he campaigned for Britain to remain, the electorate voted to leave, and shortly after the result was announced, Cameron resigned as PM.
In support of Cameron
When Cameron became PM, Britain had its largest budget deficit in the post-war era. By 2016, the budget deficit had been more than halved, and Britain had avoided any traumatic effects following the great recession of 2007/08, which could not be said for some other EU nations, such as Greece and Italy. The coalition also managed to get 1.85 million extra people into work, with unemployment falling to below 6%. Only Germany and Austria had a lower rate of unemployment within the EU. By the end of the 2010-2015 Parliament, Cameron’s government finally saw wages rising faster than inflation. Living standards were on the rise at the time he left office.
One of Cameron’s most significant legacies will be that his government passed the Same Sex Couples Act, allowing same sex couples to marry. He did so despite much opposition from within his own party, and must be credited for showing the courage to enact such a divisive bill in Conservative quarters.
Cameron did attempt to modernise the Conservatives, and may have been able to achieve more reform were it not for the unforgiving economic circumstances his premiership endured. He placed a stronger emphasis on environmentalism, and in 2013 Britain managed to produce 15% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Further to this, he hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016, and it was only the EU referendum which curtailed the former PM from making additional progress down that avenue - an avenue which no other previous Tory leader attempted to tackle.
Cameron had to preside over the first post-war coalition in very difficult economic circumstances, and lots of media pundits did not expect the coalition to last. Cameron deserves great praise for managing a government for 5 years containing two ideologically different parties, whilst enacting significant legislation and keeping the Liberal Democrats on side.
In opposition to Cameron
David Cameron was a politician who would gamble anything in order to aid himself, with no consideration for the consequences. He threatened the breakup of the United Kingdom by offering a Scottish Independence Referendum, threatened the two party system that favours his own party by offering a Referendum on the voting system, and finally, enabled Britain to exit the EU, something he himself did not believe in. Of course, he did not offer the EU referendum for any reason other than attempting to quash UKIP support and unite the Tories behind accepting Britain’s place in the EU. It was one gamble too far, and marked the end of Cameron’s premiership.
On entering office, the coalition’s main pledge was that the deficit would be eliminated by 2015. It wasn’t, and thus Cameron can’t even claim that his governments were economically competent. Indeed, Britain lost its AAA credit rating in 2015, the retention of which was a priority for the government upon entering office. The austerity programme inflicted severe cuts on Britain’s poorest, all whilst the government decided it would be acceptable to lower the higher rate of income tax on Britain’s wealthiest.
Although unemployment did fall, many of the new jobs created were low pay, and zero-hour contacts rose from 200,000 in 2010 to just under 1 million in 2016.
One of Cameron’s major pledges was to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands. He failed drastically, with net migration to Britain 298,000 in 2014.
His governments trebling of tuition fees has lead to expectations that the amount of student debt expected to be written off in 30 years will be 10 times greater than the previous system.
On health, A&E waiting time targets were not met and became worse as the parliament went on, with the worst statistics since targets were introduced under the Labour government.
Ultimately, the two governments led by David Cameron failed to deliver on any of its major promises. Be it deficit reduction, or immigration, what Cameron promised, he did not deliver. Alongside this, he should be remembered as the PM who put personal interest before his country in offering a referendum on the EU, and that decision will tarnish his legacy forever.
Sources and Further Reading:
- Alberto Nardelli, Ami Sedghi, and George Arnett, ‘Coalition Britain in 12 charts’, The Guardian (13th March 2015).
- ‘David Cameron’s legacy (it’s not just Brexit)’, The Spectator (16th July 2016).
- James Naughtie, ‘How will history judge David Cameron?’, BBC (13th July 2016).
- 'Same sex marriage becomes law', Gov.uk (17 July 2003).
- Emily Gosden, 'UK green power hits record high of 15 per cent in 2013', The Telegraph (31 July 2014).
- 'Anti-Corruption Summit 2016', Gov.uk.
- Angela Monaghan, 'Record 910,000 UK workers on zero-hours contracts', The Guardian (3 March 2017).
- Alan Travis, 'Net migration to UK higher than when coalition took office', The Guardian (26 February 2015).
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons