After Cameron’s Unmitigated Failure Few Will Be Sad to See Him Go

When British Prime Ministers get it wrong, they get it spectacularly wrong. Neville Chamberlin in Munich, Margaret Thatcher and the miners, Tony Blair and Iraq, and now David Cameron and Brexit. As the removal van arrives at Number 10 and Cameron packs his bags, his legacy leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those who feel robbed of European security and fearful of the isolated future it threatens. For those most affected by his ruinous policies on housing, welfare and disability it is a victory. If Brexit was a protest vote from the poor, it is hard to blame them.

The seeds of David Cameron’s downfall came long before Brexit. Their origin lies in the beginning of his premiership when he made the decision to implement deep cuts to the public finances, in the name of mopping up Labour’s mess. But this wasn’t really Labour’s mess at all; this was a mess created in the financial towers of the City. After the collapse in the world banking system, Cameron came to power promising to eradicate the deficit in five years. According to the ONS he doubled debt to £1.5 trillion. His austerity policies were an unmitigated failure.

Central to Cameron’s planned deficit cuts were caps to the welfare state, a move which vilified the poorest and most vulnerable in society. He imposed the ‘Bedroom Tax’ on those in social housing: a spare bedroom meant a cut in housing benefit. The Universal Credit brought complex changes to Job Seekers Allowance which many struggled to qualify for under new rules. The implementation of Personal Independent Payment (PIP) saw those with disabilities re-assessed under much harsher qualifying criteria, leading to millions losing out on disability benefits.

Cameron presided over every decision Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne ever made: he was the man at the helm

Independent analysis of Cameron’s benefit reforms has been scathing: reports by the National Housing Federation and Shelter made it clear that people had to choose between food or warmth on a daily basis, with bills going unpaid and arrears quickly mounting. As the National Housing Federation report illustrated, families are living lives one difficult day at a time as they struggle to survive; more people use food banks than before, crisis loans soar, homelessness always looming large. The tougher ‘fit to work’ tests for those too unwell to work coincided with almost 600 suicides, half a million more people started to suffer from mental health issues and a widespread increase in antidepressants being prescribed, as a study by Liverpool and Oxford academics stated.

For those with disabilities, thousands still languish in a system widely criticised by charities and medical professionals. A Channel 4 Dispatches programme revealed poor initial assessments, with some waiting over a year for their cases to be resolved. Thousands on Disability Living Allowance saw benefits stopped entirely and their motability cars seized after health assessments declared them either fit or “not disabled enough” under impossibly unfair criteria. Over 60% of PIP appeals are successful but the lengthy provess leaves those with disabilities housebound and without money for the best part of a year. Remember, Cameron presided over every decision Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne ever made: he was the man at the helm.

Brutal cuts to council budgets, the eradication of so many libraries and community centres and the privatisation of social housing further served to further punish the poor in Cameron’s austere Britain. His legacy in education is no better. Head of Ofsted Michael Wilshaw revealed the gap between our poorest and wealthiest children in schools remain the same as they have always done. Local Authority controlled schools outperform their academy counterparts in every single measure. The curriculum mess has led to thousands of teachers leaving the profession monthly.

Cameron’s Bullingdon Club beginnings have come full circle

Under Cameron’s premiership junior doctors staged the biggest strike in their history at a time when the NHS’s future has never been in greater doubt. As funding is squeezed and hospitals struggle to cope, the head of the BMA Mike Porter damned Cameron over his claims that the NHS was “safe” in Tory “hands”, arguing that he’d failed to protect and fund the heath service adequately.

And finally, there was Brexit. Cameron called his referendum to stop his party “banging on about Europe.” He made his biggest gamble, and failed. The largest post-war allegiance will now be dismantled leaving us vulnerable internationally; as Scotland and Northern Ireland look to leave the UK, our very identity is unravelling as what it means to be British is entirely re-written.

His gamble means our economy will be stripped of EU funding - something that is already leading to uncertainty in key sectors such as science. Nervousness hits as companies look to transfer employers out of the UK. Cameron’s disastrous “no if’s, no buts” comments on immigration have divided our multicultural society; increases in hate crimes have flooded the news pre and post-Brexit. Too little has been done to unite us in the aftermath as UKIP gains ground in the areas Cameron has hit the hardest.

Cameron’s Bullingdon Club beginnings have come full circle. He applied the same arrogance and recklessness from his Bullingdon club days  to his running of the UK. History will see Cameron’s leadership as an unmitigated disaster; only time will reveal if we can ever recover.

Elizabeth Aubrey 

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