David Cameron left quite a legacy in the wake of his controversial resignation last year. During his time in the frontline he modernised the Tories, won a landslide victory against a lacklustre Labour Party, and dealt with personal turmoil before the national media. His real legacy however, may well be far more destructive than he could ever have anticipated.

 

If you ask a group of average young people to name controversial prime ministers of modern British history, the list will be very similar. At the forefront, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair will dominate. Etched in the minds of millennials are both of these premierships.

The Thatcher years, most likely, will take the biscuit. In the wake of Labour’s misfortune under Callaghan, a Conservative hurricane swept through both Parliament and the nation. Public enterprises were to be a thing of the past, war was notched up between the government and the unions, and a true chemical change was unleashed on British politics.

Thatcher’s controversies centred mainly on economics. Economics is something that can be changed and altered.

Fast-forward 20 years from Thatcher’s resignation, and a new Tory force entered No.10. Young David Cameron. An injection of youth that had altered the face of the Conservatives, beating PM Gordon Brown and knocking New Labour out of power — potentially forever.

Who’d have known only six years later, that Cameron’s legacy would lie in tatters.

Who would have thought that he would cave in to pressure from the Eurosceptic right and call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Perhaps more than he could ever have imagined, Cameron changed the political landscape of this country (and arguably the world) in a more dramatic way than his ’80s predecessor ever had.

Brexit, particularly in the final throws of the campaign, lifted a lid on racial and ethnic tension in this country that was exploited by Leave campaigners. It always existed, but it was manipulated to a point of no return.

Cameron, no matter how hard he may try and dodge blame, is responsible. It was he who deemed his personal charisma and politics insufficient to win an election without pandering to the Eurosceptic right. It is Cameron, no matter how much his intentions were exploited, who is to blame.

Just over a year has passed since his resignation, and the legacy of Cameron (and arguably even Brown) is still being deciphered.

While it is unknown whether students will study his legacy with the same caution and controversy as they approach Thatcher or Blair, it must not be underestimated what a divisive figure he has been. What is most harrowing, is that the changes he precipitated were arguably both unintentional and look to be irreversible. Whether they were caused by sheer naivety or disguised malice, we’ll never know.

Now we stand, as I write this article, 428 days deep into post-referendum Britain. We are divided beyond belief, racial prejudice continues to rise, and our mainstream politics lies fragmented and paralysed. What is worse is that we see no endpoint, apart from a date put forward by the May government.

While we wait for what that date will bring, it is unlikely to be anything fruitful or even close to mending the division that the referendum has unleashed.

Cameron’s controversies at the moment centre on his decision to flee after the referendum. A decision that was both wrong and right, depending on how you judge it.

Those studying his impact must acknowledge what a divisive force his own personal insecurities proved to be. Because of his lack of confidence in his own appeal, Cameron left a nation at each other’s throats and divided it in a way that did not exist before him.

 

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