The most disastrous PM since Eden? Guardian readers on David Cameron

Sir Anthony Eden

He was in office, but when he exercised power it was rarely constructively, and internationally he was the most disastrous PM since Eden and Chamberlain.

‘Cameron sidelined Britain from the international stage’

His government inherited a rapidly recovering economy and AAA debt ratings, when the big decisions on rescuing the banks and stimulus in the great recession had been taken, but he and his dilettante Chancellor Osborne grandstanded over a non-existent crisis, postulated a wholly unrealistic plan to eliminate the fiscal deficit in 5 years and thereby put back recovery for petty political reasons for 3 years.

Internationally, his party’s entrenched hostility to anything suggestive of European unity required him to undermine efforts by eurozone governments to shore up their currency, wash his hands of any real assistance to Mediterranean countries coping with a flood of Syrian refugees and consequently sidelined Britain from the international stage, resulting in Germany and France dealing with Russia on the Ukraine.

His reaction to the Arab Spring was ill-judged at every turn, including joint bombing (with the equally discredited Sarkozy) of Libya, creating another chaotic, failed state. His cavalier approach to potentially explosive constitutional questions led him first to hold a divisive Scottish referendum, for which there was no pressing historic or constitutional reason to undertake, and then into the trap of a European referendum, which has torn the UK apart and brought a rupture in relations with the rest of Europe, the consequences of which are likely to blight the future of generations of Britons across all classes and regions.

Whilst not so obviously unfit for public office as Boris Johnson, his complacency, privilege, prejudice and lack of humility made for the worst performing PM since Eden.

Tom Brown, 59, London

‘I’ll miss seeing Cameron at the dispatch box’

He was a good prime minister and I think anybody who says otherwise is, I think, in denial.

The economy has definitely improved since the horrors of 2008, and the foreign investment that we are so intensely reliant upon for economic growth and jobs was largely encouraged by the government’s spending policy. Gay marriage is great and would not be a thing without Cameron’s leadership.

Despite what people write below (and often above) the line, I think Cameron has left a demonstrably positive legacy. Even taking us out of the EU might not matter that much in the end, though for what it’s worth I voted remain, and am saddened by the result.

I’m not rich - I was on benefits when the Tories came to power in 2010 - but I am not hostile to the Tories, despite “my kind” not necessarily being a social priority for them. Cameron was a great One Nation Tory, and I was extremely disappointed to see him resign. I’ll miss seeing him at the dispatch box.

Michael O, 24, London

‘History will judge his time in power as an age of hypocrisy and failure’

The most shocking aspects of his reign was the relentless attack on the disabled and the sheer cruelty of work assessments, along with the oppression of the poor through benefit sanction targets, and the consequent rise of food bank usage. Post-crash Britain became the place where the poor were punished and the rich were rewarded.

History will judge his time in power as an age of hypocrisy and failure. He revealed himself to be a shallow PR man in the style of Tony Blair but with fewer ideals. The empty rhetoric of, “The Big Society”, “Hug a Hoodie”, and “The Greenest Government” all evaporated in the face of real decisions and financial pressures.

Cameron will no doubt be remembered primarily for his complacent arrogance in believing that the referendum was as good as won and would solve his party’s internal squabbling. But his real legacy is public disaffection with a political system rigged in favour of a ruling minority.

Richard Gilyead, 62, Saffron Walden

‘Britain is losing a decent prime minister’

Cameron will be remembered as a moderniser who led the country out of deep recession - but also, of course, for Brexit.

I think he held the tension well between driving a kinder more inclusive society and the right wing of the Tories. For example his focus on legalising gay marriage and on investment in the north. I think part of the tragedy of Brexit is losing a decent prime minister due to the egocentric, ideologically driven Leave campaign who actually don’t care about the people they cheated into voting for them.

Jacqueline Mitchell, 50, Worcestershire

‘Cameron has undone all the stability he brought to the country’

The single overarching theme of Cameron’s premiership was: “These are trying and insecure times. Vote for me as a safe pair of hands to navigate the country through this volatility and to restore stability.” In a single phrase, I viewed him as the “Steady as She Goes” prime minister. I thought this ideal for the times and was supportive of him for it.

How laughable that now seems. In one failed gamble, he has undone all the stability he brought to the country, and then some. The economy is risk. The Union is at risk. Our place in the world is at risk.

As PM, then, he seemed good, right up to the referendum. Thus he was a good PM in the same sense that the economy before the financial crash of 2007/08 was strong.

It seems that David Cameron’s legacy is therefore of inflating an enormous political bubble, which dramatically burst on June 23rd. He avoided the thorny question of Europe to ascend to power, and flummoxed his own Remain campaign with habitual eurosceptic pandering whereby he could only argue for EU membership in the narrowest, shallowest of spaces.

The bursting of this bubble ushered in the very reverse of the legacy his premiership sought to cement.

James Ward, 26, London

‘In the face of a real crisis he ran away’

Although he was not my choice I think he made the coalition work reasonably well - in many ways was unlucky not to have a minority government second time ‘round. I can’t really work out his true position on Europe but he did fight to Remain.

Like many of his contemporary Tories he was a gambler who didn’t really have a grasp on detail so made some fundamental errors. Austerity was one of them where he believed the propaganda about spending being the cause of the 2008 crash - not so - but the EU referendum was such a monumental blunder nothing compares to it.

Blair is vilified for his actions on Iraq, but as an individual he stood by what he did right or wrong - Cameron in contrast had a moral responsibility to the British people but in the face of a real crisis he ran away. That is how he will be remembered

Peter Goff, 60, Hertfordshire

‘Cameron walked in on a disaster’

There’s no doubt after the mess of the banking crisis, and Labour’s policy of ‘spend-and-spend’, that Cameron (and Clegg) walked in on a disaster.

Not long after he took office he had to contend with the MPs’ expenses scandal which, to this day, has left a deep sense of mistrust of all politicians. The fallout was unprecedented.

Despite having voted Conservative most of my life, like a significant number of other people in 2010 I voted Lib Dem to get Nick Clegg also through the door - mainly because I wasn’t convinced of Cameron’s ability.

Cameron hasn’t been the disaster and embarrassment Major was (or catastrophone of Blair), but equally you can argue his EU negotiations in 2016 were too little and far, far too late. Thatcher would never have allowed us to get into this state in the first place, let alone attempt to negotiate as Cameron tried.

I suspect, and possibly unfairly, Cameron will be seen as the man whom through his own poor negotiations saw the UK head back to recession, from which he’d turned it around 2010 to 2013.

Richard Taylor, London

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Guardian readers and James Walsh, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th July 2016 10.07 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010