“How would it be for David Cameron if he lost this Referendum?”
When a BBC crew asked me this two days ago I don’t think either they or I imagined for a moment that this scenario would come to pass.
“It would be an utter disaster for him!” I said, with perhaps a hint of glee.
But it’s not at all how I’m feeling right now. Actually, in the end, Schadenfreude is an ugly emotion. Dave and I were friends once and though he has done an awful lot since as a politician which has irritated me beyond measure, I can take no joy in his downfall.
It was a self-inflicted downfall too, which is what must make it even harder to bear for him.
He really didn’t need to stake his reputation on the outcome of this Referendum. He could have taken a back seat and said, near the beginning: “Personally, I’m inclined to think that the safer course would be for Britain to remain in the EU. But this should not be a party political matter and I do not wish to abuse the authority of my office by engaging in so divisive an issue. It’s up to you, the people of Britain to decide and I will be guided by you.”
But he didn’t. And so he set the seeds for his own destruction.
There will be those – lots of you reading this probably – who couldn’t be more delighted that Cameron has finally got his comeuppance.
And of course I see your point. Cameron was definitely a Prime Minister in the wet Edward Heath/Harold Macmillan mould. ‘Yes, dear boy, just trust the running of the country to your plummy-voiced betters. We’ll know what to do.’ Most definitely not the radical Thatcherite mould. This, in my view, led to an awful lot of bad things happening on his watch that shouldn’t have happened: insane and expensive green policies; the accommodation of much left-wing social policy; the unseemly way in which he conducted the Referendum campaign with the viciousness and desperation of a man who knows that he loses this one then basically he is toast.
Which now, effectively he is.
He took a massive gamble (though it probably didn’t seem a gamble when he took it). Fortune’s wheel turned. And now he is crushed beneath it.
I feel no joy in this. Whatever you think of David Cameron, this is his tragedy.