Kwasi Kwarteng looks at the rise and fall of Cameron

Brave, dignified... but undone by British defiance: Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng looks at the rise and fall of Cameron

I have always respected David Cameron’s self-confidence and maturity, the ease and grace with which he has acted as PM.

But after a horror show of a referendum, his political career has been terminated at the age of 49 – the same age Margaret Thatcher was when she began her long, historic period as leader of the Conservative Party.

This goes to the heart of the Cameron enigma. He was perhaps a little too inexperienced when he became leader, having been an MP for only four years. Was it the hubris of youth that led him to trust his own tactical manoeuvres and improvisation too much?

He gloried in the lightness of touch, his ability to ride the popular mood, and seemingly drag victory from the jaws of defeat. The commitment to a referendum was always going to be risky. It is to Cameron’s immense credit that he gave the British people a say on a question that had been raging for years.

It was also brave for him to lead the campaign from the front.

His achievement in winning last year’s General Election – the first Tory majority in 23 years – was considerable. Yet the end, when it came, was bitter and humiliating.

He stood outside No 10, a man of dignity and great temperament. He was there to tell the world that the British people had ignored his warnings. They had voted against his wishes.

This was a greater humiliation for a Prime Minister than Suez in 1956. But Anthony Eden never had to make a public declaration of failure. His decisions were never put to a vote of his fellow countrymen and women.

Cameron had chosen the referendum’s timing. He had led the negotiations. He submitted his ‘deal’ to the British people. They rejected it, firmly and decisively.

There is no precedent for a Prime Minister resigning after losing a referendum. It will be a long time before another stakes his career and reputation in such a way.

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