As a history graduate, I’m interested in how we remember political figures, and how our memories of those figures frequently differ from how those figures intended to be remembered. An important detail to understand about historians is that if circumstance gives us an easy-to-swallow narrative, we’ll take it and head to the pub for the rest of the day. It’s why we tend to remember our Prime Ministers only for one thing: Chamberlain for appeasement, Churchill for easily-tweetable witticisms, Attlee for the NHS, Eden for Suez and Thatcher for having seven heads and ten horns, and upon her horns ten crowns. Equally, if a Prime Minister never manages anything particularly juicy, good or bad, we don’t much remember them at all; nobody’s going to write their dissertation on John Major.
Distasteful though it is, let’s think about Tony Blair, because whatever else Blair did during his ten years in office, all he’ll be remembered for is Iraq, and why not? It’s a controversial bit of politics, in contrast to the worthy-yet-dry National Minimum Wage Act, Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act: taking the country to war in Iraq saw the rebellion of his own party, the huge street protests, his patronising insistence that opponents of war just didn’t understand things like he did, and his insistence that history would judge him favourably. Blair was very interested in his own legacy, but historians are going to consult the primary sources both of the time and since then, and all they’ll find is a full and vibrant commentary on how Blair was woefully, hilariously wrong. Couple that with Blair’s ongoing lack of humility on the issue and it’s perfect essay material; Iraq is Blair’s political legacy, and nothing else he did or will do is going to change that.
Which brings me to David Cameron. His first term as Prime Minister will likely only be spoken of with regards to the coalition government, historically notable for being the first such government in the UK since 1945. Only four months into his second term, overseeing a Conservative government with a slim majority, and Cameron’s defining political legacy has likely already been established. While other European leaders worked to take in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, Cameron is probably going to be remembered for how he begrudgingly agreed to take in a relative handful, with all the grace and good nature of a sulking teenager. Where he began his second term boldly promising to ‘renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe’, he’s been left feebly pulling at Europe’s coat tails while Europe gets on with more important matters.
Cameron’s reaction to all of this has been illuminating; it’s clear he thought we were finally all on the same page, that we were all as brazenly, nakedly sociopathic as he is and that once the Channel Tunnel opening at Calais was turned into some sort of semi-permeable membrane that only allows British tourists to pass through, he’d be able to finish off scouring his homeland of the poor, disabled and differently-religious and retire to the Cotswolds leaving George Osborne in charge. That was the plan, dammit, and now suddenly the public and the media are demanding compassion and humanity? Cameron’s face since then has been a case-study in pissiness, his summer break ruined by having to behave like a person for a change.
His half-arsed agreement to take in 20,000 refugees over five years, deporting any children once they reach 18, satisfies nobody. For those who believe we should take in no refugees, 4,000 a year is 4,000 a year too many. For the rest of us who aren’t swivel-eyed lunatics gorging on Ploughman’s Lunches and sweating racism, it’s a pitiful figure, a sop of a gesture that placates no-one and makes him look weak and miserly next to his European counterparts.
There’s still nearly five years to go before we’re rid of Cameron, of course, so he has plenty of opportunity to find a different legacy, but few of his opportunities look likely to be positive. His ‘renegotiation’ is likely to amount to nothing, but he’ll be obliged to campaign to remain in the EU regardless so that he doesn’t have to admit that his renegotiation amounted to nothing. His party will split over the in/out European referendum. His insistence on austerity as a ploy to implement Conservative ideology is only going to get more unpopular.
History tends not to look favourably on those that turn their backs on those in need, be they nations or individuals. Cameron will be remembered, and all he had to do was be himself.
A couple of weeks after I wrote this, it was alleged that David Cameron put his cock in a dead pig’s mouth in order to join an exclusive dining club, so I guess I have to retract this entire article. He’ll be Pig-Fucker Cameron forever more.