OVER the last seven years of political turmoil, never once has a problem arisen to which David Cameron was suggested as the solution.
Through Brexit deadlock, the pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis, scandals and wars, no section of society has ever been heard saying “if only Cameron were still in charge.”
Since he slunk off to his shepherds’ hut to write his largely unread memoirs, Cameron has intruded on the public consciousness only by getting up to his neck in the Greensill lobbying and influence-peddling scandal.
Still, it appears he has an admirer in the beleaguered Prime Minister, who has no more than a year to save his government before the judgement of the electorate is delivered.
In strategic terms, Cameron’s return as Foreign secretary represents a screeching handbrake turn. Just a few weeks ago at the Tory conference, Rishi Sunak presented himself, absurdly for sure, as the “change candidate.”
He claimed that he was leading a break from a 30-year Establishment political consensus. Evidence for such a break was slight indeed, but clearly those 30 years of elite failure encompasses all of Cameron’s premiership, which ran from 2010 to 2016.
Imagining that Cameron’s return will shore up the Tory position assumes widespread short-term memory loss among voters.
The former premier is associated above all with a prolonged and punishing austerity programme that slashed state spending, ruining countless lives and impoverishing public services to the point of collapse in the process.
That programme was a political choice, designed to help stabilise British capitalism after the bankers’ crash at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable. Austerity was conservatism at its cruellest.
Nor is the record of the Cameron government on foreign affairs any better. The outstanding event was the aggression against Libya, organised by Britain and France in concert.
That lawless regime change war unleashed a human calamity still unfolding. It turned one of Africa’s most prosperous states into a basket case, riven with competing governments and prey to jihadist depredations.
This in turn has stimulated a refugee crisis, with thousands drowning in the Mediterranean as they seek sanctuary from the collapse of their country.
The Libyan intervention deserves to be ranked with those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria as among the great crimes of this century. Cameron himself appears unconcerned.
The new Foreign Secretary is remembered for Brexit too. He held a referendum on the issue for purely partisan purposes, seeking to head off a haemorrhaging of votes to parties on the Tories’ right, like Ukip.
Cameron himself campaigned strongly to remain in the European Union and complacently assumed that the Establishment would carry the day.
Among his misjudgements was failing to realise that after six years of economic misery and government austerity, working people were in no mood to give the Establishment the benefit of the doubt about anything.
So Brexit too paints a picture of an aloof upper-class politician detached from the realities in which most of us live.
He can only seem statesmanlike by the debased standards of the Tories since, of the corrupt and sybaritic Boris Johnson, the fanatical Liz Truss and the mini-Mussolini Suella Braverman.
So if this is Rishi Sunak’s new survival strategy it reeks of desperation. It seems he has written off the “red wall” of former Labour seats, a part of the electorate to whom Cameron offers nothing.
Perhaps the hope is that he will shore up centrist Tory votes in southern constituencies where the Liberal Democrats are the challengers. But there is no doubt that Cameron’s return from the political graveyard brings with it the lingering stench of electoral death.
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