The public reaction to Lord Cameron’s appointment by Remainers and Rejoiners has been a textbook example of how people are driven by anger over strategy in affairs of the heart and politics. I note from extensive interactions on social media that many are unable to get past the 1984 notion of “two minutes of hate”, sometimes much longer, for affairs with our porcine friends and various other of David Cameron’s peccadilloes.
It is, of course, too early to judge Cameron by his actions at this point of his re-emergence, but I wish to suggest to you that Cameron is a potential asset in the fight against Brexit and far right populism. In the words of George Michael, please Listen Without Prejudice. I am not in any way excusing Cameron for his sins in and out of office. Nor am I suggesting that we forgive Cameron for his faulty referendum decision and various other defects. I am suggesting that we use Cameron’s obvious regret about that decision to help alter the political paralysis that allows Brexit to prevail.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
Cameron says in his autobiography that not one day passes when he does not regret Brexit. You may find this to be an attempt to gain sympathy, yet it’s true that people do not write autobiographies to trash their reputation. I find his regrets to be authentic and heartfelt. More importantly, whatever the reasons for his regret, I believe that we must use his reflections as a lever for change, hence the title of this article. Compared with the Truss, Johnson and the emotionally bankrupt Sunak, Cameron is a much softer figure.
His initial mistake was that he thought that he could build unity in the Tory party by offering the people a plebiscite on Brexit. Of course, he was horribly wrong and, importantly he did not see that Nigel Farage would weaponise austerity by blaming immigrants for people’s lived experience in 2016. Research from UKICE demonstrates that Vote Leave moved the dial on the referendum result by 12% – in other words the referendum result would have been 60:40 for staying in the EU without Farage’s ‘clever’ but deplorable interventions on ‘othering’.
I attended the debate on Brexit with Alex Salmond, Gina Miller, John Bercow, David Davis and Andrew Marr this week and had an interesting conversation with Alex Salmond about Scotland, Brexit and Cameron’s role in the whole matter. Andrew Marr gives an interesting complementary outlook on this matter. It’s well worth watching his New Statesman video on matter. Marr agrees that Cameron virtually had no choice but to offer a referendum on Brexit. Clearly, he did not factor in the toxic weaponisation of austerity by Nigel Farage. The feeling of being abandoned is one of the things people often mention in their two minutes of hate for Cameron, but there was no other choice for a leader who had so badly misjudged the matter.
Two rabbits down, 11 more to go
I called James O’Brien some months back saying that if Rishi Sunak was wise, he would pivot to the centre rather than the right to save his party. I suggested that he needed about a dozen rabbits to pull from a hat. It is possible that David Cameron is one of those rabbits, judging by the reactions of voters in Brexity West Bromwich being interviewed for BBC Radio 4 Today [ed: approx. 07:20 minute] on Saturday 18 November. Jeremy Hunt’s tax cuts are another, even though these will probably only affect a small number of people and have already been widely discredited.
A passage to India
Sunak is not Johnson. Sunak will not have tossed a coin, smoked a cigar or had a few glasses of Chablis to decide whether he should sack Braverman. He will have carefully weighed up the issues, perhaps even on a spreadsheet! He must therefore have priced in the notion that the ERG are a busted flush and that any counter reaction would be manageable. So far his analysis has held true with very little public reaction to the sacking and nowhere near 52 letters.
My sources tell me that Sunak’s personal career direction may see him off to a position in the Indian High Commission. By putting Cameron in the Foreign Office, he has installed a safe pair of hands amidst the lunatic fringe of Badenoch, Morduant and others who may wish to hold the crown or a sword. A journalist pointed out that Sunak may have just installed the next Prime Minister and with it someone who may be able to join the EU anew before Starmer has even woken up in 2032.
Perhaps the question to ask in terms of Sunak’s reputation is does he leave before an election to pursue other goals or does he risk leaving after a crushing or less fatal defeat which still seems possible given recent events on all sides? I know which I’d choose. Yes, Cameron’s appointment is an affront to democracy, but we are not in a position at this point to do much about that, so we must act in ways that can make some useful changes from his re-emergence.
Vital signs of a more centralist viewpoint
At the moment the jury is out as to whether Cameron will be a force for reform towards the centre, although I have some direct intelligence from inside Parliament that says he could well be. However, he did temper the Government’s attitude towards the ceasefire on Tuesday 14th November. This itself is a sea change from the far-right loons of his party.
He also conducted a blistering attack on Boris Johnson in his inaugural speech this week, citing the phrase “Take Back Control” to hit Johnson squarely where it hurts. These are immediate vital signs of a more centrist viewpoint from Cameron acting from his role as Foreign Secretary.
Breaking Parliamentary Paralysis
But what would Cameron need to do in order to change the paralysis that I mention? His moves may only need to be quite minimal to be effective. For example, as Foreign Secretary all he has to do is go on a few trips to Europe, mend a few bridges with EU leaders, utter some of his regrets about Brexit in despatches, perhaps even suggest that Brexit has not worked out per the ‘2016 brochure’ and so on.
Cameron’s views on Brexit are already public knowledge so there are no surprises for the far-right media to report on here. If he even so much as whispered something about the failure of Brexit, Keir Starmer would be compelled to agree, in order to maintain his strategy of being in lockstep with the Tories. The vow of silence on Brexit would be broken irrevocably.
At the present time all we have had in terms of tools to stop Brexit have been the SNP and the Green party. Constant attempts to lobbying Labour and Liberal Democrats have largely failed in the wake of almost complete radio silence on the subject. If Cameron were to utter even some doubt about Brexit we suddenly have a new powerful tool in the box to work across the other parties with. Political influence requires us to be emotionally detached from political ideology.
Four of the best
Here are four suggestions if you wish to act rather than watch from the sidelines.
- Forget Cameron’s porcine love affairs
- Be surgical and support any positive moves he makes on Europe and Brexit
- Mention this to opposition parties
- Remember, you don’t have to agree with Cameron on everything