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Cameron’s Failure

Alex Massie reviews David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister:

No prime minister in living memory has suffered a defeat of such cataclysmic proportions; none has been so thoroughly humiliated by his own electorate. Cameron lost control of his party and then his country. The consequences of that carelessness will be felt, in Britain and internationally, for years to come. Future political historians will ponder a melancholy question: what was the point of David Cameron? And their judgment is likely to be severe.

Cameron promised a vote on EU membership to maintain party unity and stave off the challenge from UKIP, and so it is oddly fitting that in following through on that promise he succeeded in further fracturing his party and opening the door for UKIP to achieve its main goal. Just as he thought he could smother Scottish nationalism with the independence referendum two years ago, he believed he could squash Euroskepticism in the Tory ranks and put the issue to rest for good, and in both cases he miscalculated about as badly as one can.

You might think that Cameron would have learned from the Scottish referendum that these things can backfire and empower the very people it is meant to weaken, but he did not. He seems to have taken an entirely different, wrong lesson from the unionist win in 2014. He seems to have concluded that the side he supported couldn’t lose, and so he may have thought there was no danger that he would if he called a referendum. Whatever else one wants to say about how he conducted himself in these campaigns, what stands out most in all of this is Cameron’s sheer arrogance and poor political judgment. He picked two fights that he was certain he couldn’t lose, nearly lost one, and then lost the other in such a way that makes it very likely that the other result will be reversed as well.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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