15th April 2021
Future students of history and politics will no doubt have to answer essay questions about who was the worst prime minister out of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
And there is also no doubt there will be those who will aver that, say, Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair was worse than any of those three.
Over on Twitter the comedian and writer David Schnieder offered his view:
Amazing to think that David Cameron, who brought on the Brexit catastrofuck and the brutal failed policy of austerity and kneecapped the NHS and welfare and indulged in the most shockingly corrupt lobbying, is only the third worst PM of the last 10 years.— David Schneider (@davidschneider) April 14, 2021
From a constitutionalist (and liberal) perspective, there is a case to be made against each of the three.
Johnson, for example, switched the government’s policy on Northern Ireland and Brexit, negotiated and signed the Northern Irish protocol, and rapidly passed it into legislation without any scrutiny – and we are currently watching the fallout from this.
One can also put against Johnson that it was his switch from supporting Cameron and his political ambition that led May to adopting the hardline positions that she did on Brexit.
It was May, however, who was responsible for the ‘red lines’ that meant that the United Kingdom would leave the single market and customs union, which in turn necessitated there having to be elaborate provisions in respect of Northern Ireland.
She is also the one that triggered Article 50 prematurely and without a plan, and she even sought to make this momentous notification without an act of parliament.
Cameron is the most culpable.
However bad May and Johnson have been, they were and are merely dealing (badly) with a situation created by Cameron.
Cameron staked the entire future of the United Kingdom on a single turn of pitch-and-toss – a simple yes/no referendum – assuming that, of course, he would win.
No considerations – let alone plans – were made for the contingency of the votes being for leave.
It was perhaps the most irresponsible domestic political act one can imagine in peacetime.
A ‘macro’ decision that, in turn, led to the bad ‘micro’ decisions of May and Johnson as they sought to give effect to the referendum result.
And so Schneider may be wrong on this, at least in terms of what the United Kingdom is going through constitutionally.
Looking at it in terms of other policies, one perhaps could take a different view.
But I suspect future generations will be aghast and bewildered at Cameron’s folly.
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