George Pascoe-Watson: We never really got to see Full Cameron

Written by George Pascoe-Watson on 28 June 2016 in Opinion

The Insider: We will never know what the prime minister could have delivered if the Brexit verdict had gone the other way.

David Cameron will end his Premiership precisely as he began it - steering the country he loves off the rocks and back to calmer waters.

The outgoing PM has vowed to put his remaining weeks - yes, weeks - in Downing Street to steadying the ship as the UK goes through political and economic turmoil.

It is only six years since he moved into number 10 and began the enormous task of saving Britain from economic catastrophe. He succeeded in this and will always be able to say he genuinely staved off disaster. Now his role will be to steady the markets, calm industry leaders and ensure the country feels as confident as it can about its future.

In some ways, the bookending of his Premiership provides history writers with a neat narrative. David Cameron, the man who saved his country when disaster loomed. Twice.

It isn't the narrative he set out with back in 2005. Then he wanted to change the world, build a fairer Britain and rid the Conservative Party of its "nasty" reputation for good.

Mr Cameron could have simply walked away from the carnage of the Brexit referendum. Critics will always accuse him of doing so.

But - tempting thought it has been for him to switch off his phone and put his feet up - the PM loves his country too much to abandon it, even in his final days in power.

Mr Cameron had long known he would step down if he lost the referendum. In discussion with aides in the days and weeks before, things had begun to look alarming.

A conference call every morning at 6.15am began the day and another ended it at 10.15pm seven days a week for months.

Trips around the country began to sound alarm bells as agents tried but failed to sound optimistic in the face of their canvassing.

When the end came, it was swift and brutal. Over the weekend he was in his country cottage, not Chequers, carrying out his ceremonial duties and glued to a phone to close colleagues. Monday morning's 8.30am meeting was the moment when he was crystal clear with his closest team: Craig Oliver, Ed Llewellyn, Kate Fall, Oliver Letwin and Simon Case.

Whatever time he has left he must commit to leaving the country - and his successor - the best possible chance of making a successful future.

Big policy decisions are now off the table. Why make decisions which could easily be reversed within weeks? Even the childhood obesity strategy may not be unveiled. Decisions have yet to be finalised.

But going to Brussels is all about buying a new PM time to trigger article 50, persuading fellow EU leaders they have much to gain from Britain's orderly and friendly exit from the EU.

Mr Cameron is determined to avoid getting sucked into personal animosity and has ordered his team to refrain. He loves his Conservative Party almost as much as his country - though both have put that emotion to the test - and wants to ensure whoever leads has a fair wind.

Business leaders will be summoned later this week to discussions in Number 10. Confidence in the money markets, in share prices must be shored up and every effort must be made to tell a strong story about Britain's future.

The economy is at the heart of everything and creating some immediate sense of certainty is vital to stop the catastrophe that some Remainers expect.

Whatever talents Mr Cameron still has, as his power floods away like the sodden British Spring of 2016, he still has the ability to convince the world the UK has a bright future, albeit a different future.

There is a wretched feeling in Number 10 today. An immensely talented Prime Minister with an agenda of social change and the opportunity to deliver it has been cut down by events.

Some will say he only has himself to blame for bringing on the referendum and by being on the "wrong side of history". The bulk of his only year of non-Coalition government has been taken up with the referendum campaign, preventing from showing his true aims and ambitions.

In truth, we never really got to see Full Cameron and now we will never know what promise it could have delivered. With Mr Cameron go ranks of highly talented men and women, many of whom will now have to find work in a jobs market seized up thanks to the Brexit vote.

We shouldn't weep for him, but he himself is a young man without any idea of what comes next. Financially successful ex PMs now face the wrath of those who believe they should never earn again for fear they may be "cashing in" on their past.

But for now, Mr Cameron has a job to do. He will lead the country and his Party to the end of his days in office.



George Pascoe-Watson is a partner at Portland Communications and former political editor of The Sun.



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