Cameron is wrong to apologise for democracy

The former PM regrets giving the plebs a voice and upsetting the Remoaner elite.

Neil Davenport

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Former Conservative prime minister David Cameron is promoting his memoirs, For the Record. Central to the coverage is what caused his hasty departure from politics: Brexit. For the past three years, furious Remainers have blamed Cameron for agreeing to hold the referendum and for failing to win it. He has responded to Remainers’ tears and tantrums by saying: ‘I’m sorry, I failed.’ He told The Times that Leave’s victory has left him ‘hugely depressed’ and that he has ‘many regrets’ about the vote.

Cameron qualifies his apology by saying that allowing ‘people the chance to have their say’ on the EU was ‘the right approach to take’. But if holding the referendum was the correct decision, surely he would celebrate it as an act of mass democracy in action, even if he was on the losing side?

Then again, Cameron may not be so enthusiastic about democracy. In office, he brought in the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, enabling what should have been a short-term coalition government to have a five-year stretch in power. His behaviour after the referendum also showed a lack of enthusiasm for democratic mandates. The official leaflet on the EU referendum declared that ‘the government will implement what you decide’. But rather than accepting that decision and invoking Article 50, Cameron immediately resigned as prime minister and went back to his box sets.

Barely a few months later, he stood down as the constituency MP for Witney – a huge snub to his own Conservative Party members and voters in Oxfordshire. This is less commented on than his quick resignation as PM, but it should be viewed as equally damming. For all Cameron’s claims of ‘loving this country’ when he resigned, he clearly couldn’t stomach having to deal with mere constituency matters. It was beneath him. Just as when Labour’s Tristram Hunt and Tory ex-Chancellor George Osborne resigned their seats to take up cushy jobs elsewhere, it showed that the well-heeled and well-connected deemed the House of Commons to be a bit too common.

Cameron’s actions revealed a politician who didn’t particularly like politics and who was not inclined to public service. He now returns to public life to rubbish a democratic referendum and scorn the debate it has provoked. Cameron feels comfortable in articulating this because the anti-demos narrative that has gripped the hysterical middle classes has become the dominant ideological view. Leave may have won the referendum, but elite Remainers have shaped the aftermath. They have been highly effective in demonising the Leave vote, labelling it as an act of deviance and even criminality. Part of this narrative has been to attack democracy more broadly. The elite’s turn against democracy has brought reactionaries on to the streets and has emboldened the powerful in high places. Hedge-fund millionaires posing as activists, unelected judges and a biased Commons speaker are all riding this destructive wave.

In his Times interview, Cameron says he ‘did not fully anticipate the strength of feeling that would be unleashed both during the referendum and afterwards’. Indeed, who could have guessed that the decision to quit a painfully dull and bureaucratic trading bloc could unleash so much emotion and anguish? Then again, the middle-class anger about Brexit is not directly about membership of the European Union. Rather, it expresses a class hatred. For shockingly naive Remoaners, the EU is a facilitator of brotherly love, transnational cooperation and toleration. It’s about breaking down barriers between nations. In Remainers’ minds, it is a sign of cosmopolitanism, open-mindedness and continental sophistication. In contrast, Brexit supporters are viewed as horrible, smalltown types. They are seen as tabloid-reading, ITV-watching, fast-food-guzzling throwbacks – plebs and pensioners, rooted in deeply uncool British cultural mores. Middle-class Remainers are outraged that ‘these people’ and their vile views and habits won the referendum. When Cameron says he is ‘sorry’, he is apologising to the middle classes for allowing uneducated oiks to run riot at the ballot box.

Of course, Cameron isn’t alone in desperately trying to appease middle-class reactionaries. Jeremy Corbyn and the outer fringes of the radical left are doing the same. When Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party four years ago, many commentators feared that the party of Tony Blair had been captured by ‘hard left’ activists. In fact, it has transpired that the ageing Stalinists and ex-SWP radicals attracted to Corbyn’s Labour were the ones who were captured. They were captured by the woke middle classes. The slogans ‘Love Corbyn, Hate Brexit’ and ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ have been adopted by left-wing millennials. Eurosceptic socialists like Corbyn and his strategist, Seumas Milne, are demonstrably not in charge. Left-leaning commentators have also changed their tune, from penning articles considering the case for ‘Lexit’ (a left-wing exit from the European Union) to arguing that only racists want Brexit. Everyone is terrified of upsetting middle-class Remainiacs, it seems.

The Labour left’s awkward about-turn and capitulation to the middle classes has led them to double down on their screeching ‘anti-Tory’ pantomimes outside parliament. This is nothing but a performance. No amount of megaphone chanting can disguise how, when it comes to the question of the democratic involvement of ordinary people, they are defending the status quo. Cameron’s apology is directed at them, too. He knows just how they feel.

Neil Davenport is a writer based in London.

Picture by: Getty.

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Jerry Owen

16th September 2019 at 4:37 pm

The best thing Cameron has ever done is as he has stated .. ‘ being hugely depressed’ !

Jane 70

16th September 2019 at 2:24 pm

William Thompson

16th September 2019 at 11:06 pm

Thank you for that link. A treasure trove of information 😉

Neil McCaughan

16th September 2019 at 11:36 am

Another bitter, forgotten, self-justifying failure. As if John Major wasn’t enough.

Jane 70

16th September 2019 at 11:11 am

Jim Lawrie

16th September 2019 at 9:55 am

Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem, SNP, Green – they are all backing each other up against those they cannot bear. They seek one confirmatory court ruling after another to tell us, the electorate, what we can and cannot do, think, say or vote.

Cameron’s latest laments are part of the war of attrition. But he ran away. From a safe distance, he now calls people names. That is his level, culturally and politically. And he regards himself as superior to us.

The Lib-Dems expect us to see their promise to cancel Brexit as a radical new departure. Like we didn’t know their intentions. Expect the others to follow suit.

Christopher Tyson

16th September 2019 at 9:00 am

Tony Blair is now praising Corbyn’s handling of Brexit. Corbyn has strung his supporters along, not committed himself to anything then come out for Remain seemingly timed to have the greatest impact. But philosophical pragmatism, or Blair’s version ‘what work?’ is just an attempt by the too clever by half to have their cake and eat. But pragmatism in effect is doing whatever you need to do to get whatever it is you want, amoral is just immoral in fancy rhetorical clothes. Blair retains a sense of his own inherent virtue, but people have seen through him, he is yesterday’s man. To be fair Blair may be desperately trying to claim Corbyn as one of his own but Corbyn’s position and intentions remain resolutely unclear.

Jane 70

16th September 2019 at 8:30 am

Reading the MSM’s quotes from Call Me Dave’s book, I was struck by the sheer vitriolic back stabbing ; a virtual night of the long knives:

Boris Johnson is a liar who only backed the Leave campaign to help his career and Michael Gove was a “foam-flecked Faragist” whose “one quality” was disloyalty, David Cameron writes in his memoirs.

The former prime minister poured vituperation on both his former colleagues Priti Patel, the current home secretary, and Dominic Cummings, the No 10 adviser, in extracts from the book published on Sunday.

In what may be Cameron’s most explosive allegation yet, he effectively accused Boris Johnson of mounting a racist election campaign by focusing on Turkey and its possible accession to the EU.

“As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty. Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris.”

Needless to say, the Guardian is only to pleased to have published these incendiary allegations.

Cameron never impressed me as being either sincere or truly committed and now we see histrue colours: behind the faux apologies and humility, he’s leading the charge to discredit the Leave vote once and for all.

Jim Lawrie

16th September 2019 at 11:00 am

From every corner they are gathering under one banner, with us, the enemy, in their sights.

As their ranks swell, so does the need to pretend diminish. It is only a matter of a very short time before Universal Suffrage is called into question, and candidate worthiness.

Dominic Cummings is singled out because they loathe anyone of ability, and he is not one of them, politically or socially.

Jane 70

16th September 2019 at 11:10 am

Absolutely and what passes for democratic process has sunk to a new low: this is the coup, not BoJo’s prorogation of parliament.

The spin on Cameron’s released excerpts is blatant use of ammunition in what you rightly describe as the war of attrition.

This is worth reading; an excellent analysis of the farce that has befallen us.

Michael Lynch

16th September 2019 at 8:18 am

Well, he has got a book to sell. Let’s hope it goes down the toilet like his political career.

William Murphy

16th September 2019 at 7:30 am

We very quickly learned everything we ever needed to know about David Cameron on that riotously funny day when he virtue-signalled by very publicly riding a bike. With a Lexus carrying his briefcase.

“They also stress he has opted for a less gas-guzzling car…..”

Steve Roberts

16th September 2019 at 7:25 am

As is often the case a cracking article from Davenport, so much crammed in there it is worth a second read to grasp the profundity and range. The “mistake” Cameron made was of course to give form , in the referendum, to social and political tensions that had been bubbling away for many generations, often written about on Spiked pre referendum.
In terms of democracy and the unresolved tensions it also brought to the fore the questions of class as Davenport points out, who rules ? It must not be underestimated that this is the first time since universal suffrage was “granted” that the real question of who rules has been tested.
The political class have responded as expected to defend their status quo and the “left” have done likewise at their first time of asking on a binary question Davenport has it exactly right when he writes of the “left” “No amount of megaphone chanting can disguise how, when it comes to the question of the democratic involvement of ordinary people, they are defending the status quo”
But it needs saying this is not some aberration, a serious turn from their norm, personal weaknesses or confusion by Corbyn et al, no ,this is a direct consequence of the “left” having to take sides guided by their real political outlook that has been their underlying ideological underpinning almost since inception, it’s clear to all which side they are on, worthy of questioning is have they always taken that side when it matters but never exposing themselves like this before ? The enemy within ?

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