Like Tony Blair With Iraq, David Cameron's Legacy Is Just One Word: Brexit

12/09/2016 16:37 | Updated 13 September 2016
Peter Nicholls / Reuters

"I am the heir to Blair," said David Cameron in 2005. With the announcement he is quitting the Commons after standing down as Prime Minister, he is certainly staying true to that premonition.

The difference is, Blair went at a time of his choosing, quitting Downing Street and Parliament on the same day.

Cameron was of course not afforded that luxury, and was effectively forced to resign in the early hours of 24 June after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

With the decision to leave Downing Street forced upon him, Cameron has decided to take back control of the other exit plan - and has now quit Parliament entirely.

Cameron said today that: "I'm sure I will remembered for keeping that pledge to hold a referendum when many people thought that promise would never be kept".

All Prime Ministers want a legacy, yet are rarely remembered in the way they would wish.

Harold Wilson - another PM who was able to pick the timing of his departure - was proud of his reform of the education system and the abolishment of laws around homosexuality, abortion and capital punishment. Yet, most people think of his time in office as one of great economic upheaval.

Ted Heath hoped the UK's entry into the European Common Market would ensure he was in the history books as a true internationalist. This year's referendum vote shows the British public did not quite share his zeal for European integration.

When Margaret Thatcher's name is mentioned many think of the poll tax riots or striking miners, while Blair will be forever associated with the word 'Iraq'.

What of Cameron's legacy? Like Blair, his name will always be associated with one word: Brexit.

He first promised the EU referendum in a speech in January 2013 as a way of quelling the growing disquiet over Europe in his own party. It was also designed to neutralise the growing threat of Ukip - which was slowly gaining support in the opinion polls.

In 2014, Cameron had another referendum to deal with, as Scots went to the polls to determine whether they should live in an independent country. Despite a scare in the run up to the vote - with one poll putting the independence camp in the lead - Cameron secured a ten-point victory.

The tactics used by his side in that referendum - nicknamed 'Project Fear' due to the focus on the negatives of leaving the union - were replicated in the 2016 EU vote, but with a different result.

The proclamations of economic turmoil, weakening of security and a diminished place on the world stage fell on 17million pairs of deaf ears.

Cameron, who had put himself so central to the Remain campaign, had no choice to resign after losing the vote.

He could he have stayed on in Parliament - after all, not all ex-Prime Ministers bolt for the exit door after leaving Downing Street.

Wilson, who quit as PM in 1976, stayed on in the Commons for another seven years before standing down and then being made a peer.

Thatcher stuck it out on the backbenches for 18 months after being ousted over Europe in 1990, and also ended up in the House of Lords.

Blair, however, shunned not only sitting on the green benches of the Commons after quitting as PM, but also being promoted to the red ones in the Lords.

He took roles with investment bank JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, and also acted as a Middle East Envoy on behalf of the EU, the UN, America and Russia.

If Cameron truly is the heir to Blair, then expect to see him taking a similar route and add another fortune to the one he was born into.

Yet no matter what he does next, or what else he achieved while in office, Cameron will always be remembered as the Prime Minister who accidentally took the UK out of the European Union.