There, I’ve said it. The former Prime Minister has been the forgotten man since he resigned in 2016 after losing the EU referendum. It was such a terrible way to go out that in polite company a veil was drawn over what had happened. And then there were months and months of many people saying (not me) how unbelievably marvellous, unquestionably brilliant and refreshing Theresa was, and how she had made a connection with the country that old smoothy chops could never quite manage. And look at her ratings going off the charts. They love her. At which point Cameron pops up pictured posing next to his £25,000 shed.
Well, you know what? There’s a rebalancing going on, as so often happens after opinion has run too far in one direction. May has some strengths, but they are accompanied by significant weaknesses now cruelly exposed. It is worth in such circumstances recalling that Cameron, the forgotten man, had his upsides. Here they are:
1) He’s comfortable in his own skin and calm in a crisis. Cameron was always terrifically self-possessed and confident at summits and meetings of leaders, which is not always the case with Prime Ministers.
2) The Cameron sense of humour. It is hugely to his credit that he found it amusing to have insults from Twitter read out to him by his staff. He could be spontaneously very funny. Check out his response when asked about Christianity and belief, when he said that for him it is like reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it comes and goes.
3) There were plenty of policy mistakes made along the way, but Cameron did not opt mid-election to declare war on the ageing homeowners of Great Britain, creating the impression that they were all going to have their houses stolen and reducing the Tory lead over Jeremy Corbyn (!!!!!!!!!!!) to a mere five points.
4) Cameron gave us the EU referendum, which means the UK is leaving the EU and it is all settled. For which, thank you.
5) The Big Society. A brilliant, classically Burkean Tory idea completely ballsed up by the shoeless Steve Hilton.
6) He hated reshuffles and he hated firing people, which says something good about a leader. Prime Ministers who like it are sadists. It is a bad idea for national leaders to be sadists.
7) He knows his wine and likes food and beer.
8) Cameron massively annoyed Gordon Brown (always a splendid thing to do) and kept his cool during the best/funniest period in recent British political history which is the election that never was in the summer and autumn of 2007. Brown was riding high – Theresa May-style – and then hubris collided with indecision. Brown was going to smash the Tory boys he wrongly called a bunch of libertarians (Cameron is not a libertarian, he is a shire Tory) but it all went wrong in the weeks leading up to party conference and then at Blackpool. It was one of the most amusing stories I have ever covered.
9) The high comedy of Cameron’s attempts at dressing down for his holiday snaps for the press. Alongside the ever elegant Sam Cam, Dave could – like most of us men – never quite get it right. There were the black loafers too much like work shoes. And the favourite blue polo shirt. And the “Cameron pointing at fish” in a fish market picture. Innocent days.
10) Yes, yes, yes, Cameron could be extremely highhanded and he annoyed a lot of people in that way. His handling of the ridiculous Leverson process was an appalling low point. But he took over in government at a difficult time in 2010 after the financial crisis and was, on the whole, a good Prime Minister.
I rather miss him, which will be thought a great cheek after I spent a dozen years critiquing him (on the grounds that it is my job.) Still, the point stands.