Last Wednesday was David Cameron’s last day as Prime Minister. After 6 years, his premiership came to an end as Theresa May moved into No. 10. Cameron’s time in office has been highly controversial, plagued by accusations of dishonesty and deception. But how justified are these charges?

Throughout Mr Cameron’s career, he has been described as a political chameleon, with Labour’s 2006 local election advertising slogan: “Dave the Chameleon”. His “Call me Dave” attitude attracted criticisms of being an ever-changing populist in his quest for power.

Cameron’s political integrity certainly comes into question when some of his promises are scrutinised. Many promises made in 2010 and 2015 elections have not been delivered on:

Promise Reality
 “In five years’ time, we will have balanced the books”.

(Speech to CBI; October 2010)

The deficit is set to be more than £73 billion this year. It has been cut by around 40%.
“We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT

(Jeremy Paxman Interview; April 2010)

VAT increased from 17.5% to 20% in 2011 under Cameron.
“I want us to be the greenest government ever

(Speech given at Department of Energy and Climate Change; May 2010)

Support for solar panels on homes has been cut. Green Deal to help people insulate old homes, green building standards for new homes and support for industrial solar projects has also been scrapped

Source: All statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Cameron’s ability to deliver was certainly comprised in the Coalition (2010-2015). However, it would be wrong to presume that if a Prime Ministerial promise is blocked by political circumstances, we cannot hold it to account. For example, in April 2015 Cameron assured voters Tax Credits are “not going to fall”. The next Spending Review, however, saw severe cuts to Tax Credit. After political uproar and heavy criticism from the House of Lords, the government scrapped the proposed cuts. In this welfare failure, Cameron still made a promise that he did not intend to deliver.

Promise Reality
“… net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade.”

(Speech on immigration; October 2011)

Net migration never under 100,000 per year. Last year it was 333,000.
“Our schools revolution will create a new generation of good small schools with smaller class sizes and high standards of discipline.”

(Conservative Manifesto; 2010)

Schools are bigger: 87 Primary schools have more than 800 pupils, up from 58 in 2013.

Classes are bigger: 100,800 infants are in classes of over 30, an increase of 8% compared with 2014.

“If British people vote to leave, that’s [activate article 50 immediately] what we should do.

(EU: In or Out, Sky News; June 2016)

Article 50 has not yet been triggered.

Source: All statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

David Cameron was elected as Conservative leader on a mandate of Modernisation, after only 4 years as an MP. As the youngest Prime Minister since 1812, Cameron aimed to create a modern Tory party for the 21st century. The same sex couples Marriage Act, legalising gay marriage, and allowing women on the front line (2016) were key steps towards modernisation, championed by the Prime Minister.

The rather vague ideology of ‘The Big Society’ has had more criticism. The increase in ‘Free Schools’, and the expansion of the 15-17 volunteer programme, National Citizenship Service, were efforts to move towards the localised responsibility and compassion he championed, along with more devolved powers to local government.

Critics claim the ‘Big Society’ is a cover for privatisation and further cuts. Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell attributed to it the spoof slogan: “From each according to their vulnerability, to each according to their greed“, adapted from Marx’s “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Increased foodbank usage shows the darker side of the Big Society. Many received community aid out of necessity due to government cuts or benefit sanctions. Foreign aid, a cause championed by Cameron has seen the role of central government increase, not decrease. Last year, the UK government gave £13.21 billion overseas, hitting the UN foreign aid target of 0.7% of GDP and putting the UK 5th highest on the list of most generous countries. Furthermore, the current zeitgeist appears to be more of division than unity. Following the Brexit outcome EU, reported hate crime incidents have risen by 42%, according to police statistics.

Mr Cameron will be most remembered for the EU referendum. The referendum was a promise that he had to deliver on. After already failing to deliver a promised referendum in the last government, failing to deliver again would be impossible. With 138 of 330 (42%) conservative MPs backing Leave, and 52% of the country voting Brexit, the demand for the referendum was clear.

David Cameron ends his six years in office on an EU referendum defeat. Throughout a premiership plagued by broken promises, his very resignation was a broken promise itself. In an interview with the Sunday Times before the referendum, he promised to stay on as PM, no matter the result. This was a lie and one which may taint his legacy in years to come.

By Aladdin Benali

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