Shortly after David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, a regular Ipsos-Mori poll on the most important issues facing Britain recorded its lowest ever score for the one that ultimately led to his downfall.
Just one per cent of those surveyed felt the EU was a pressing concern and the figure was well below ten per cent when Cameron decided to call a referendum on Britain’s membership. Last month, 59 per cent rated the EU and Brexit as one of the UK’s most important issues, while economy, education and crime all took a back seat on less than 20 per cent.
Such figures have led some to the belief that Cameron manufactured a national crisis out of nothing – apart from decades of infighting within the Conservative party – then departed too swiftly, leaving others to clean up the mess.
However, he is now reportedly planning a return to politics as he is “bored s***less” – perhaps not the reason he would pitch to a Conservative constituency association’s selection committee – and has the post of Foreign Secretary in mind. Hours after the Sun first ran the report, it had not been denied by the man himself, an easy thing to do if he were so inclined.
Cameron may take comfort from the comebacks of past Tory leaders. Alec Douglas-Home’s year-long stint as Prime Minister ended in defeat to Harold Wilson in the 1964 general election, but he later served as Foreign Secretary under Edward Heath. William Hague was leader when the party lost the 2001 election, but was Foreign Secretary from 2010 to 2014.
However, while both politicians were damaged by failure, unlike Cameron these were not defeats of their own making. They were still well regarded by many in the party’s ranks. It goes without saying that the Brexiteers are not Cameron’s biggest fans, but Tory Remainers were hardly falling over themselves to welcome him back yesterday. The Conservative Home website’s daily news round-up relegated the story to an “And finally ...” item.
That left it to Labour politicians to give the verdict, with Yvette Cooper MP tweeting: “You ripped up our closest international partnership. By accident. That makes you even worse than Boris Johnson.”
And, given UK Government assessments that a no-deal Brexit could result in economic “Armageddon”, it does seem a bit rich for the person who may have put Britain on the path to that bleak future to be lining up one of the four Great Offices of State for himself.