Cameron’s intervention and the role of ex-prime ministers

PM attends European Council

The role of ex-prime minister is a rare position to be in, but how involved have ex-leaders been since leaving office?

The Guardian has reported that David Cameron, who stopped being prime minister almost a year ago, attacked Conservatives, calling proposals for a more relaxed approach towards austerity as “selfish”.

The comments come following disagreements at the top of the Conservative party over lifting the 1% pay cap on public sector pay.

Jeremy Corbyn has tweeted in response to Cameron’s comments, saying that: “Shocking that @David_Cameron would say nurses asking for their first pay rise in 7 years are "selfish".

 

One of the things that can be taken from David Cameron's intervention is the considerable power that former leaders still command once out of office. Cameron’s comments may not make any real difference, but criticisms from former leaders tend to get a response in the press, with Cameron's remarks becoming a top news story. Despite having no formal role in politics anymore, the shadow of the last prime minister to win a majority stretches far and wide.

The same is true in other countries. Across the pond, Barack Obama has remained vocal about Donald Trump, ensuring that his criticisms are heard by the media. At a recent speech in Canada, the former US president gave a speech criticising Trump’s policies, according to the Daily Caller. There is no doubt that if Angela Merkel fails to win a fourth term in September, she will not stay silent.

Meanwhile in Italy, former presidents are made senator for life, formalising the role of ex-leaders in an ex efficio capacity.

What have former UK prime ministers done since leaving office?

One worry for any new prime minister is that their predecessor will shout from the side-lines, criticising their every move, as a backseat driver like Margaret Thatcher did when she left office.

Since leaving the role of prime minister twenty years ago, John Major has been vocal from the side-lines, especially in recent times on the topics of Brexit and the European Union. According to the Guardian, back in February the former political giant said of Brexit, “I have watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic”

The Mirror also reported that Major criticised David Cameron’s government in 2015 over eduction.

After Major came Blair. Since leaving office, the last elected Labour prime minister has also been vocal on the issue of Europe, and his successor Gordon Brown has made passionate defences of the union, getting particularly involved during the Scottish independence debate.

Most prime ministers may leave formal politics behind them, but they stay very much in the political game. It therefore looks likely that Cameron's recent comments will certainly not be his last.