David Cameron has been labelled one of the worst post-war prime ministers, ranking behind his predecessor Gordon Brown who was widely disliked by the British population, thanks to his Brexit legacy.
The rankings were created by the University of Leeds, by polling 82 academics who specialise in politics and contemporary British history, The Times has reported.
When judged on his second term in office alone, between 2015 and 2016, he was handed a mean ranking of 2.1 thanks mainly to his legacy as the prime minister who granted Britain a referendum on membership of the European Union (EU).
“This would place him at the bottom of the league table – as a worse prime minster than Anthony Eden, long seen as the biggest post-war failure in Number 10,” said Professor Kevin Theakston, from the University of Leeds, who carried out the research in conjunction with Woodnewton Associates.
Nearly nine in ten academics said the referendum was his worst failure, with one rather hyperbolically claiming it to be the greatest defeat of any prime minister “since Lord North lost America”.
However, with his first term taken into account, which includes the introduction of same-sex marriage into British law – the issue for which Cameron said he would like to be remembered – he rose to third place, above Anthony Eden and Alec Douglas-Home.
Cameron’s recent tenure appears to have significantly hampered his place in the ratings, as he was also the only prime minister out of the last five to receive a negative rating for his impact on British society, the economy, foreign policy and Britain’s role in the world, their political party, and democracy.
Margaret Thatcher was rated worst for her effect on British society with a score of -79, in comparison to Tony Blair’s score of +65, Brown’s score of +19, and Cameron’s -39. But Thatcher scored positively for her foreign policy legacy, whereas Cameron was given a score of -69, behind even Tony Blair who led Britain into the second Iraq War.
Prof. Theakston, said: “For all his achievements as a successful coalition prime minister, David Cameron’s reputation and place in history seems destined to be defined by Brexit and his calling and losing the referendum.
“Academic opinion, as reflected in our survey, is currently pretty damning. But reputations can wax and wane as subsequent events, the passage of time and new evidence change perspectives.
“Depending on how Brexit works out, future historians and political scientists may come to a different verdict on Mr Cameron’s premiership and his place in the league table of prime ministers.”
The study repeats similar polling carried out in 2010 and 2004, before Cameron had taken the reins at No. 10. As in the 2010 poll, Labour’s Clement Attlee was rated as the most successful prime minister with a mean rating of 8.5. He was followed by Margaret Thatcher, who received a score of 7.2, and Tony Blair, who received 6.7.
Mr. Cameron stepped down as prime minister in June, following the British vote to leave the EU contrary to his recommendation. He has recently announced he will be joining the National Citizen Service.
His seat in Witney, Oxfordshire, is to be filled in a by-election next Thursday following his resignation from the House of Commons.