A decade after telling his party to ‘stop banging on about Europe,’ David Cameron has been floored by this hotly contested topic. One couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him as he addressed the global media outside 10 Downing Street early this morning. After all, it is barely over a year since his remarkable and unexpected election victory where the Tories won a majority government for the first time since 1990.
His legacy will be one of a skilful administrator, a strong leader and desire to liberalise the Conservative Party in some capacity, by making his so-called ‘compassionate conservatism’ appealing to all across the political spectrum.
Ultimately however, he will be remembered and judged on this referendum. The referendum which ironically was never supposed to be.
Cameron pledged to hold a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU to win back votes from UKIP after they had started eating into the the Eurosceptic Tory vote. Far beyond his wildest dreams was a majority victory in the General Election of May 2015. Cameron’s assumption was that there would be a continuation of the coalition with the Liberal Democrats and could attribute that to a withdrawal of the referendum offer.
Instead, Cameron won a majority and now had a sizeable task on his hands. His phoney renegotiation with the EU was a transparent sham to all. In the end, it has cost him dearly.
But all of this would never have come about if not for Nigel Farage. His swift rise from political oblivion via the aid of one viral YouTube video to this referendum has been astonishing. He has single-handedly changed the political discourse in this country regarding the EU and immigration; something entirely unprecedented. He has stood up to the establishment and beaten them.
UKIP will by no means evaporate. Rejected for so long by the bourgeois, metropolitan elite of the Labour Party – reflected by the minute number of Labour MP’s supporting a leave vote in fundamental contrast to the masses of the North-East – the working-class have now found a party which genuinely thinks in terms of the national interest and in terms of average, hard-working citizens.
This has been Farage’s referendum; that is unambiguous. Yet, rising from the rubble of this great carnival of democracy, comes Boris Johnson. For so long seen as a spluttering buffoon, Boris’s choice to support the Leave campaign was a game-changing coup. Together with the eloquent Michael Gove and the composed Gisela Stuart, they gave legitimacy to a campaign which until then could be seen as a notion only backed by fringe whackos like Nigel Farage and George Galloway.
With a Conservative leadership election upon us, Boris’s time has come. It is hard to see who will down him. Theresa May, who kept a low-profile – perhaps deliberately so – during the referendum campaign, has been touted as a potential candidate to oppose him. However, it is difficult to imagine the Conservative Party members electing a leader who was pro-Remain in this campaign. The next leader surely can only come from a Brexiteer.
Perhaps Michael Gove or Andrea Leadsom could stand against Boris. However, it would be of no surprise were Gove to run with Boris with the view to taking one of the senior jobs in his administration. Some have voiced their apprehension at a Boris-Gove administration labelling it the ‘rise of the right.’ However this is not so. Socially liberal, they represent New Labour even more than Cameron’s premiership did. It should be rightfully dubbed as a neo-Blairite project.
With Cameron set to be replaced by his long-term rival Boris, there are more questions than answers at this stage how effective Tory efforts to reunite will be after such a divisive campaign.
With other issues such as the status of Scotland with the United Kingdom, a possible revolt within the Labour Party against Jeremy Corbyn and of course the general economic mood following the vote to leave all hanging on a knifes edge, Boris Johnson will be smiling to himself amidst the unruly hair this afternoon with the knowledge that his next venture into Number 10 is the only real certainty in Britain at the moment.