Tuesday, 3 March 2020

An effective demolition job, but not beyond criticism

The full version of Donald Sassoon's lacerating review of David Cameron's memoirs is now about to read free of charge online. It is a remarkable polemic: The worst prime minister ever

I am reluctant to criticise a fellow editor of Political Quarterly and he has produced a devastating and eloquent critique. I just make three simple points:

  • There clearly isn't a lot of point in comparing Cameron with 18th or 19th century prime ministers who were operating in a very different environment. But if we just confine ourselves to the 75-year period since the end of the Second World War, there is surely a case for Sir Anthony Eden who deceived the House of Commons about going to war. More recently, Theresa May has been criticised on a number of fronts.
  • Dave Cameron certainly had his flaws, and his memoirs are self-justificatory and tedious - but that could be said of many political memoirs. I do think he had an inability to think many moves ahead on the chess board of politics (as was evident from my one engagement with him), but that's never easy.
  • Much of the view you take of Dave depends on whether you are a hard core remainer. I voted remain and even campaigned for it in front of hostile audiences (I can recall being the warm up act for Ken Clarke). However, I have seen enough of the EU from close up to have some reservations about it, in particular about the strength of the 'reform from within' argument. I still think it was the wrong decision to leave, particularly with what looks like a very hard Brexit, but I don't think a referendum could or should have been avoided for ever (albeit that Dave was too confident about winning it).

Anyway, do read what Sassoon has to say.