So farewell David Cameron, not just from 10 Downing Street but now, also, from the House of Commons, following the announcement that he is resigning his Oxfordshire seat.
Although I always thought ‘Call me Dave’ was too clever by half it is nevertheless sad to see one of the ablest politicians of the modern age brought down by hubris.
Rumoured to have been, at one time, a bit of a Eurosceptic himself, Cameron must have known that the deal he brought back from Brussels towards the end of last winter was extremely limited.
So he could have said: “Look, if we want to remain a member of the EU this is the best I, or anyone else, can ring out of them. The deal is by no means perfect but, on balance, I am inclined to recommend ‘Remain’. But the decision is up to you, the British people, and whatever you decide I will do my best on your behalf’.
As the consequent referendum was not fought along party lines Cameron could have stood aside, statesman-like, and let the Remainers and Brexiteers slug it out.
But no, he had to go in with whatever is the posh-boy term for ‘tackety boots’ and get tore in on behalf of the Remainers, not only pushing what he saw were the benefits of continued EU membership but also repeating at least some of the dire warnings as to what our fates would be if the country did decide to vote to leave (remember the extra 200 quid on the price of a family holiday on the Costa del Sol?).
Thus having thrown his gauntlet into the ring, Cameron ensured that a ‘Leave’ vote would make resignation virtually inevitable. But he did not think it could possibly come to that, did he?
A perfect example of Cameron’s disconnect was an appearance in front of an audience on ITV a few days before the vote in which he extoled the virtues of free movement of peoples with countries like Germany and Holland.
He failed to see that no one in Britain – save, perhaps a handful of xenophobes – ever had any problem with Dutch and Germans being able to live and work here and our own people moving in the opposite direction. This was because ‘free movement’ in these cases mostly involved professional or manually-skilled persons who already shared largely similar standards of living and levels of income.
What large parts of Britain were objecting to was a huge influx of Poles, Lithuanians and others from the much poorer ‘new accession’ countries. This had nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with a subsequent downward pressure on earnings and an upward pressure on schools, healthcare and social services – in other words an immigration double whammy.
It was these issues that delivered huge votes for Brexit in the north-west and in the eastern coastal regions England and even produced substantial numbers in affluent southern counties, which have done well, in economic terms, from EU membership.
The same issues, I would contend, also helped boost the ‘Out’ vote in parts of Scotland, despite Brexiteers north of the Border campaigning on a paltry budget and all the major Scottish political parties dedicated to remaining in the EU.
We keep hearing about how Scotland ‘voted two-thirds to remain’ (it didn’t, 62 per cent were in favour) but given the pro-EU alliance between CBI Scotland, the Scottish financial institutions, the trade unions, the media and the political establishment at Holyrood, securing 38pc was a remarkable achievement for ‘Leave Scotland’ and its leader, the former Glasgow Labour MP, Tom Harris.
It seems likely that David Cameron will now follow in the footsteps of Tony Blair – not for nothing did he once call himself ‘the heir to Blair’ – and make shedloads of cash by writing his memoirs and appearing on the highly-lucrative corporate lecture circuit.
But no amount of money is ever likely to erase that pang of regret that is probably lodged deep within the innards of the former Prime Minister and which will remain there until his dying day.
FOX IN THE DOGHOUSE
Liam Fox, the native of East Kilbride and former Glasgow GP, and now one of the principal Brexit Ministers, has been in the doghouse since he criticised some UK businessmen for being lukewarm about exports and for much preferring the golf course on a Friday afternoon to seeking new markets.
Perhaps the choice of words used by the Secretary for International Trade was a tad undiplomatic although it should be noted that he was, after all, speaking at a private meeting but his comments were recorded on a mobile phone and then revealed to the media.
However some of the reactions weren’t exactly business-like either. Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks and deputy chairman of the official Remain campaign in the EU referendum, fumed that Dr Fox’s comments were “disgusting”, adding (in a high-pitched moral tone – I actually heard him on the radio), “how dare he?!”
Now Brexit will be a seismic shift, particularly for British industry and commerce especially if this country does not have continued tariff-free access to the European Single Market.
But is there not a little bit of truth in Dr Fox’s remarks in that, for some British exporters, the Single Market (in effect a protective customs union) has become a little too much of a comfort blanket?