Before I begin, I have to recognise that same-sex marriage was introduced into England, Scotland and Wales under Cameron’s term as prime minister. He did oversee one step forward... before immediately putting our country on a high-speed train back to the 1940s.
His legacy of destruction is bad enough – but choosing to re-enter the discussion on Brexit, with his track record on the topic and at a time of historic sensitivity in our country, just so he can sell his new book? I don’t have the words to describe my disgust. But hey, in the true spirit of Brexit, let’s try anyway.
I wouldn’t say we shouldn’t have had a referendum on our relationship with the EU – there was a degree of euroscepticism at the time and it was important to ensure that our membership of the EU had democratic support. But the selfish motivations, overconfidence and utter lack of preparation behind Cameron’s referendum make it an unforgivable act of national sabotage.
As confirmed by Conservative peer Baroness Warsi, it was never even Cameron’s intention to have the referendum; it was something he put in the 2015 manifesto to protect Conservative seats under threat from Nigel Farage’s surging UKIP, and well as pacify the eurosceptics within his own party. According to Warsi, Cameron didn’t expect to win an overall majority in the 2015 General Election, expecting instead to have to continue the coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who would block the Tories from holding a referendum at all. In short, he gambled our country’s future by dancing to the tune of Nigel Farage in order to keep his party together and maintain his own power.
Cameron’s overconfidence came from his recent “victory” in the earlier Scottish independence referendum. He figured he’d managed to use warnings of economic devastation to scare the Scots into staying in the UK, so surely the same strategy would work with Brexit.
Now, aside from being proven historically wrong on that one, it was also a morally and constitutionally horrendous sequence of events. Cameron’s campaign sought to scare Scotland with the economic damage of leaving the UK because it would take them out of the EU. Then once he’d secured the Scots’ vote to stay in the UK, he opened the door to dragging them out of the EU two years later. The people of Scotland literally voted to stay in an EU country twice in two years and yet, because of David Cameron, today they’re on the way to a no-deal exit from the EU.
It’s no exaggeration to say that if you disunite the UK, you destroy the essence of the ‘United Kingdom’. So when you add the threat of another independence referendum in Scotland to the high probability that any version of Brexit will lead to a referendum on whether to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland in order to avoid a peace process-ruining hard border, David Cameron’s legacy is truly remarkable.
As for the referendum campaign Cameron led, I can say that personally it’s the failures of that campaign which made me get involved in February 2016. Please put yourself in my shoes: You’ve studied EU law. You’re watching David Cameron threaten that leaving the EU Single Market will destroy the UK economy without regularly explaining what the Single Market actually is. You know that if the 28 countries of the EU made their own regulations for goods and services, anyone wanting to sell across the EU would have to produce up to 28 different versions of the same product, whereas EU countries making laws together lowers prices for business and therefore lowers supermarket prices. You know that the narrative of “taking back control” of our laws just needed someone to explain the benefit of making laws together – something I’ve just done in one sentence. You know that the EU rules on immigration say you need to either have a job or have enough money and medical insurance not to be a burden on the welfare state, and you’re watching Farage’s lies about uncontrolled migration go unchallenged. You would know that the biggest threat to the country wasn’t Farage – it was David Cameron’s utter incompetence.
Worse still, he was exactly the wrong person to make the case. Let’s say you were 50-years-old, living in the North East, and your dad lost his job when you were 10 because Thatcher closed the shipyards. You’ve watched London benefit from tonnes of investment your whole life, with new buildings and infrastructure being built all the time, while your area gets crumbs. You hate the Tories for what they did to your dad and you hate them more because of the austerity that David Cameron is forcing you (and everyone you love) to suffer. Then guess who the person telling you to vote for the status quo is… Seriously, if I’d have studied any topic other than EU law at university, under those circumstances, I would have voted Leave.
When I was campaigning in 2016 I heard from many people who told me they were voting Brexit to “stick it to Cameron”. He must know his opposition to Brexit only hardens people’s resolve for Brexit, so his decision to pipe back up now – after everything he’s done – simply because he wants to sell his memoirs, is the act of a man with no morality. He left politics for a reason. Leave means leave, remember?
Clearly, he’s forgotten. That’s why Our Future, Our Choice are releasing an “alternative memoir”, called Eton Mess. It’s more truthful, cheaper, and much, much shorter. We think it’s better than Cameron’s, and Stephen Fry has called it “the best political biography ever written”. Rather than wasting your time with the original, why don’t you have a look at ours instead?
Femi Oluwole is a law graduate and campaigner with Our Future Our Choice. Follow him on Twitter at @femi_sorry