David Cameron: Achieved little, hurt many, and fractured the nation

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David Cameron delivers a press statement outside No 10, Downing. Photo: Crown Copyright Credit: Georgina Coupe

David Cameron will likely be remembered by the history books as the man whose actions led to the United Kingdom exiting the European Union, and potentially as the catalyst from the breakup of the EU. He was highly praised by colleagues in his final Prime Ministers Questions, before handing the reigns to Theresa May, but the sheer amount of damage he and his government have done was strangely overlooked: but it is being felt throughout the country, and will continue to be felt in the future by those of us whose lives will be affected by his actions, and inactions too.

David Cameron gave his last Downing Street speech under rumbling storm clouds, perhaps an indication of the stormy times that he has left for us: pathetic fallacy it seems does exist outside the world of literature and film.

Cameron spoke of creating a stronger, fairer Britain, protecting the environment, of making sure everyone had life chances and improved social mobility: his actions have proved his agenda was quite the opposite. Cameron will be quick to tell you that his government have stabilised the economy, cut unemployment and increased the life chances of people country wide. He may have statistics to back up his claims: but these can be deceiving, and tailored to mislead and overlook certain considerations. 

I shall of course elaborate and explain before I risk being shot down by fervent neo-liberals – Cameron claims employment has never been higher than under his time as Prime Minister: this may be true statistically, but how many of those jobs are zero hours contracts, offering workers no sense of security? How many of those are low-paid jobs?  How many of these jobs have seen a reduction in hours or a real-time drop in salary? Add this to record numbers of self-employed, who would rather not work for big companies who show no regard for their workforce, but find themselves with no sick pay or pension provisions. The statistics can be drawn up to overlook all this.

Those with the least and already most vulnerable bore the brunt of Cameron’s austerity plan: he ruthlessly targeted the disabled and working poor so that the rich could be protected, and the bankers who caused the financial crash would go untouched and continue to increase their already obscene wages and bonuses.

We have a reliance to judge how our country is doing based on the economy and growth: and to that count the Tories have stabilised the country somewhat since the financial crash – but often overlooked are the wider social issues in the country that cannot be measured by GDP, where the country has been anything but protected and stabilised.

A constant rise in homelessness, more and more people in working poverty, rising child poverty after years of brutal welfare cuts, reliance on food banks going through the roof, increased inequality and life chances, the gap between rich and poor increasing to near Victorian levels and a crisis in mental health coupled with suicides becoming tragically more common

The National Health Service is suffering its greatest crisis since its inception, racking up debts by the minute with junior doctors still at war with the government: further privatisation seems about the only certain prediction for the future of the NHS. Public services and local councils have been pushed to within an inch of their limits due to massive budget cuts. Museums, libraries and leisure centres are closing across the land. We have a shortage of school places, a shortage of teachers and more who want out of the industry because of the pressure and excessive workload. In fact there aren’t many people that David Cameron’s government hasn’t alienated – unless, of course you have oodles of cash, or are a hedge fund manager et al.

Alongside this, FTSE chiefs earn 183 times more than the average UK worker, earning more by the 5th of January than the average annual salary of a worker in an entire year. Bankers bonuses have risen at double the rate of the average worker, and Britain’s richest see their wealth double in just five years.

London has become the capital of the world for industrial scale tax evasion and offshore havens. There are tower blocks in the city of London that remain 80% unoccupied whilst others struggle to find homes and afford astronomical rent prices. Britain is corrupt to the core and Cameron has stood by and let it get worse and worse.

It would be careless to brand Cameron as a complete failure and panto villain: he did oversee the introduction of same sex marriage, despite the fact more of his own MPs opposed it than voted in favour. In 2014 Britain became the first major nation to meet the UN-set target to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid. And under his leadership the Tories passed the Modern Slavery Bill in 2015 – meaning businesses must publish an annual report outlining steps taken to prevent slavery in their supply chains in the UK and overseas. But this is a drop in the ocean compared to the pain and misery he and his government have inflicted on the majority of this nation.

Cameron has potentially squandered the prospective futures of an entire generation, and for what? In quintessential Tory fashion to appease the rich, the party’s wealthy backers and supporters, and his Eurosceptic backbenchers. Rhetoric was a key of Cameron’s deception of the nation – we all had to take our medicine like good citizens and were “all in this together”, whilst bankers continued paying ludicrous bonuses, taxes cuts were handed out to the rich, and big business were allowed to pay close to zero tax whilst thriving from the British workforce and system that educates and cares for them. 

Cameron has failed the youth of this nation, again and again battering them in favour of older generations, perhaps thinking them too apolitical to see any repercussions: the “lost generation” is a term that is occasionally bandied about, the first generation in many where their life chances are lower than that of their parents.

But the sum of Cameron’s greatest failure is how fragmented we now stand as a nation. The Scots want independence, the youth feel bitterly let down and ignored and the poor feel hopelessly abandoned and disenfranchised from politics believing nobody speaks for them: there are north-south, class and generational rifts throughout the land. Hate crimes have been steadily rising during Cameron’s time in 10 Downing Street, with a 42%  increase in race-hate complaints since the EU referendum. “United we stand, divided we fall” so the saying goes, and boy have we fallen since the turn of the decade, but particularly in the last year.

“Nothing is really impossible if you put your mind to it” was Cameron’s last retort to the nation – yet he never achieved half that things he promised: all words and rhetoric, little real action. Time will now judge Theresa May’s premiership, but one thing is for sure, she’s been left with the mother of all clean-up jobs.

David Cameron’s legacy will be felt for decades to come. Many have still not forgiven Margaret Thatcher, and one might comfortably predict that in years to come many still may not have forgiven David Cameron – maybe not as spectacularly hatefully, but still with spite. Of course, quite how badly he is remembered will now depend on how Britain copes with Brexit.