Only Brexit?: The political legacy of PM David Cameron

What will be the political legacy of PM David Cameron? Read few comment.

PM David Cameron says EU in-out referendum will be held on Thursday 23rd June. Credit:

PM David Cameron. Credit: 

Robin Pettitt, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Kingston University

His legacy will be the results of the referendum vote to leave the EU. We still do not know what those results will be, but I have no doubt that when in the future people look back at Cameron’s time as Prime Minister what they will remember is the referendum. Blair will forever be remembered for Iraq; Cameron will forever be remembered for the referendum.

His victories will be overshadowed by his greatest defeat, i.e. the referendum. That really is what he will be remembered for. He did secure the Conservative Party’s first majority since 1997, which no one had expected, and which could certainly be seen as a significant achievement. However, that achievement will be chiefly remembered for what he used it for – that is, call a referendum which he then went on to lose.

A slightly more nuanced analysis would probably also remember him for guiding his party through five years of peace time coalition government. Coalitions in the UK are virtually unheard of (except for when there is a world war on) and most experts predicted the coalition formed in 2010 would quickly fail. That it did not is certainly partly down to Cameron’s skills as a politician.

So, his successes could be seen as successfully managing a coalition; winning the first outright Conservative victory in 19 years (neither of which were expected). However, I think both of those will be overshadowed by his biggest defeat, and main legacy, i.e. the EU referendum.

Graham WilsonDepartment Chair, Professor, Department of Political Science, Boston University

Unfortunately, his legacy will be calling the EU Referendum that he then lost. This event will dominate British politics for years to come and in my view damage the UK economically, in terms of its international standing and potentially is survival as a nation (if Scotland has another referendum).

His goals as party leader were to modernize the Conservatives making them more tolerant of Britain’s cultural diversity and to end its obsession with the EU. He succeeded in he first of these goals and obviously failed in the second.

His greatest achievement was the creation of Britain’s first coalition government since 1945 and that government’s success in stabilizing the economy.

Unfortunately he will always be thought of as the prime minister who called and lost the EU Referendum.

Chad MartinAssistant Professor of History, University of Indianapolis

It’s always difficult to guess how history will judge someone so soon after their moment, but I cannot think that history will be kind to David Cameron. He seems to have had very poor political instincts, and ones that will cost his nation in the long run. Domestically he will be judged by the failure of his Chancellor’s (George Osborne) economic policies. His austerity measures hurt the average person and seem to have done little to spur economic recovery or curtail the deficit. This financial pain felt by average people certainly fueled the Brexit vote. And, of course, the Brexit vote will inevitably be his lasting legacy. This is where his poor instincts show the most. He didn’t have to call a referendum – he did it to silence internal dissent within his party. His failure to foresee the results of the vote put the UK in the middle of an international economic & trade crisis. It bears repeating that this was an “own goal.” No one forced this vote on him. He calculated that he could use it to silence his critics within the Conservative party, and instead he damaged both the EU & the UK. Rather seems the definition of “hubris,” doesn’t it?

As far as his victories go, he did win two general elections (well, one and a half if you don’t count the coalition government as a clean victory). He did prevail in the Scottish independence vote, although that may be revisited in the future. Cameron himself pointed to his foreign aid budget and to the introduction of same-sex marriages as two of his major achievements. While I don’t mean to belittle these, I think it is undoubtedly the Brexit failure that will be indelibly linked with Mr. Cameron.

Erik Goldstein, Professor of International Relations, Boston University

David Cameron managed Britain’s first peacetime coalition government in living memory with great skill. That may open new future possibilities in British politics. But he also developed a liking for referendums, which are not part of the British political tradition. There was an early referendum on voting systems, which resulted in no change, as Cameron had hoped. Then there was a referendum on Scottish independence, which was badly managed. Although Cameron hoped to preserve the United Kingdom, it came very close to seeing Scotland break away. It was only a last minute powerful intervention by the previous prime minister, Gordon Brown, that saved the union. Finally he decided to hold a referendum on EU membership, hoping that this would resolve once and for all that Britain would be a member. Instead only a year after winning an election for his Conservative party he has had to resign after a badly argued campaign on the EU. This in turn will open the door to renewed demands for Scottish independence. His final legacy may well be to begin the breakup of the United Kingdom, and the reduction of its international standing.



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