This blog, written on the morning that Donald Trump was confirmed as the 45th President of the USA, is unashamedly about politics. So if that doesn’t float your boat, look away now.
I watched The Italian Job the other night, and for some reason, it got me thinking about David Cameron.
You know, the classic 1969 film that ends with the front half of the getaway bus perilously clinging onto the Alpine hairpin and the rear end — where $4m worth of gold bullion sits, precariously balanced over the abyss.
The film ends with gang leader Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) saying the immortal words: “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea.”
And that put me in mind of Cameron, who I believe to have been the worst British Prime Minister
ever to hold office, and the mess he left the country in.
Not only did he fail to have a great idea — in six years, he didn’t even have a half decent one.
And then some of the ideas that he did manage to come up with were disastrous, both for him personally, and for the country.
Cameron has been rated the third-worst prime minister since World War II by a panel of experts, but the only reason he wasn’t on the top step of this podium of shame is that his time as a coalition leader reined in the some of the worst excesses of his political lunacy. And for this, I will grudgingly thank Nick Clegg (remember him?).
The survey of 82 academics, each specialising in post-1945 British history and politics, was carried out at the University of Leeds in collaboration with Woodnewton Associates, a market research company.
Respondents were asked to rate the performance of each leader during their tenure in Downing Street on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing the top score of ‘highly successful’.
University of Leeds professor Kevin Theakston, who carried out the research, said: ‘For all his achievements as a successful coalition prime minister, David Cameron’s reputation and place in history seems destined to be defined by Brexit and his calling and losing the referendum.’
Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair both easily outscored Cameron in the ranking of Britain’s post-war Prime Ministers.
According to the survey, Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57) was the worst, but here I disagree and this is why.
Now, before you say: ‘here we go again… another of Grainger’s bloody anti-Brexit rants,’ just hear me out.
First, of all, let me present my hierarchy of disastrous tenures of the top job:
Fifth place: Sir Anthony Eden.
His reputation was left in tatters by his catastrophic handling of the Suez crisis. With a smattering of common sense, the whole tapestry of the Middle East could be very different and a whole lot more peaceful today. Enough said.
Fourth place: Sir Alec Douglas-Home, October 1963 to October 1964. Despite being the only British Prime Minister to have played First Class cricket, he was a dullard given the run-around by Harold Wilson for his comment that he would run the UK economy by counting [Bryant & May] matches.
Third place: Benjamin Disraeli, February 1868 to December 1868 and February 1874 – April 1880.
Now you might consider this a tad harsh, particularly as Disraeli was the forerunner of one
of ‘Call me Dave’s’ favourite sound bites, “Big Society”. In fact, he invented it with his concept of “One Nation”. However, his appointment of Queen Victoria as Empress of India in 1877 (India had been under British rule since 1858) cemented the sub-continent as part of the British Empire, thereby storing up issues for the future. Let’s not go there.
Second Place: Neville Chamberlain (1937-40).
Chamberlain is best remembered for securing the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler in
1938. This, according to Chamberlain, guaranteed ‘… peace in our time.’ Errr… not quite, Neville. This agreement, considered ‘… a meaningless piece of paper’ by Hitler, effectively only served to piss off the Russians and give Germany more time to mobilize troops and build a formidable military machine.
And so to the winner…
… drum roll….
David Cameron, May 2010 – July 2016.
Okay, my reasoning? Here are three reasons why I consider Cameron to have been the worst person to occupy 10 Downing Street in the history of British politics.
- Let’s get it out of the way — Brexit. Forget the outcome; don’t get me started on that again. It should never have happened in the first place. Can you imagine Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher or even John Mayor (remember him?) risking their political destiny on the will of the people? Cameron was so sure he would win and that unfounded certainty was the first step to finding himself at one end of the bus with the gold at the other.
- Remember Cameron’s election promise not to raise taxes for five years? ‘No VAT,
National Insurance or Income Tax rises for the next five years under a Conservative government.’ Ameet Gill who was in charge of Downing Street Events’ planning, referred to this nugget of policy planning as ‘… probably the dumbest economic policy imaginable.’ But it gets worse: Mr Gill went on to say: ‘Sometimes when a vacuum is there it makes a government do stupid things.’ He added, ‘When I was in government, we made some announcements on the hoof just to fill that vacuum.’ And then it gets even worse: ‘We kind of cooked it up on the hoof a couple of days before, because we had a hole in the grid and we needed to fill it.’ And so, Cameron slithers down the bus toward the bullion which slips further out of his reach, tilting the back end lower over the precipice.
- And the third (there are more but three’s a nice round number and this is, after all, a blog and not an essay): the abolition of tax relief on buy-to-let properties. Why is this so important? Because if the housing market is overheating in London and getting tepid again in the South East, it does not mean that that prices are soaring elsewhere and greedy landlords are creating demand that is outweighing supply. All it has achieved is to reduce the prices of property in areas such as Northern Ireland and the North East that were just beginning to see tender shoots of recovery post 2007 and led to increased rents to cover the loss of income. Some landlords may have a bad reputation, but many are ethical businessmen (I’m one) and provide a good level of accommodation at a fair price to a variety of tenants who cannot afford home ownership. Will the abolition of tax relief (which is a tax increase by stealth) improve their lot and made home ownership more affordable? Will it bollocks?
And here, folks, finally the diesel in the bus runs out, the engine splutters and stalls, and as the last robber exits the front door, it plunges over the ravine delivering the gold to the Mafia waiting at the bottom. And this — if you didn’t already know it — was, according to Michael Caine, the alternative ending.
And this is precisely when Cameron says: ‘Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea. I’m resigning.’