Friday 24 June 2016

David Cameron: The man who gambled and lost

Everyone already knew that David Cameron was an inveterate liar. Of course Tony Blair told really big ones (like Iraqi WMDs for example), but Cameron's lies were so much more numerous. He lied with such regularity and such fluency that it seemed that he'd probably rather lie even when it would have been much easier to actually tell the truth.

Another thing that was obvious about Cameron was his propensity for reckless gambling. When the SNP won the huge electoral mandate they needed in order to force a Scottish independence referendum, David Cameron was quick to snatch the popular option of Devolution Max off the table and turn the referendum into an "all or nothing" gamble between complete independence, or continued Scottish subservience to Westminster rule. In the end he won that gamble, but the 55% - 45% margin of victory was a hell of a lot closer than anyone had anticipated when Cameron first dictated the terms of the bet.

In 2015 David Cameron decided to gamble again. His party was riven with divisions over the European Union and two Tory MPs had made high profile defections to UKIP. Cameron decided that the only way he could win the 2015 General Election was to put a temporary stop to the internal Tory Party civil war, and draw the UKIP thorn, by offering the hard-right the referendum on membership of the European Union that they craved so much.

The short-term political advantage was undeniable. Cameron's offer of a referendum even resulted in the bizarre spectacle of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage instructing UKIP supporters to vote against their own candidates and vote Tory instead. The incredible result of this was that the fanatically hard-right UK Independence Party ended up taking more votes off the Labour Party than they did off their Tory ideological blood brothers! Cameron undeniably got his short-term reward as (with a little bit of help from unlawful election expenses doping in marginal constituencies) the Tories swept to an unlikely and unexpected majority government.

The problem for David Cameron was that he had promised a referendum, which he had to deliver. It's hard to understand his thinking in deciding to hold a short sharp shock of a referendum, wedged in between the local and assembly election day in May 2016 and the summer holidays. Perhaps he was afraid of the way that the long drawn-out Scottish independence referendum gave the Yes campaign time to gain so much ground? Whatever his reasoning, the plan backfired spectacularly as the rushed campaign played straight into the hands of the simplistic "simple problem - simple solution" propaganda and crude anti-intellectualism of the right-wing Brexit campaign.

David Cameron lost his gamble, and the entire future of the UK economy will be changed irrevocably because of it. He announced his resignation immediately because he had no other choice after playing so recklessly with the future of the UK economy for his own personal advantage, and then running such a woeful strategy to boot.

Additionally, Cameron didn't just lose his EU gamble when the public voted for Brexit, he also completely undermined his victory in the Scottish independence referendum too. Every single local authority area in Scotland backed Remain.

It's now absolutely clear that under the current situation Brexit will result in an unwilling Scottish electorate being dragged out of Europe by the anti-European English. That's clearly an unacceptable scenario, and a second Scottish independence referendum looks like an inevitable consequence.

David Cameron didn't just lose his second big gamble with the future of the UK, in doing so he massively undermined his victory in his first big gamble with the future of the UK too.

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