12 Sep 2016

Cameron quits as MP

David Cameron, when he stood down, had said he would stay on and watch PMQs from the backbenches. But then ahead of the referendum he’d said he would hang around in No. 10 to implement Brexit if the British people voted for it.


In the latter case, he probably always knew that he’d go if there was a Brexit vote but pledging to do that risked creating a tempting “two-for” offer for those critics already tempted to vote “Leave”.

As for remaining a backbencher, it was unlikely but may have been something he seriously intended to ponder. In the event, the former Prime Minister is bowing out with speed.

Only Tony Blair comes close in matching the quickness of the departure from the Commons. But it is Tony Blair’s retirement from politics and the damage it’s done to his standing that weighs on Mr Cameron’s mind as he ponders what to do next.

Mr Cameron has talked to friends and former colleagues about the need to avoid the bad publicity Mr Blair has had from jetting around the world and picking up massive cheques from various individuals and regimes.

Having seen a central strategic relationship of post-war British politics shatter in his hands, Mr Cameron has enough of a job on his hands rescuing his political reputation without attracting headlines suggesting he is money-grabbing or banking the glow of office.

Friends say he is keen to be identified with “big society” projects, the biggest of his making being the National Citizen Service, which currently has a big expansion under way.

But it is Tony Blair’s post-No. 10 path that David Cameron is following with the speed of his decision.

Tony Blair stood down as an MP the day he stood down as PM. Most predecessors hung around until the next general election at the earliest. But four more years watching Theresa May unravel some of his work and challenge his approach was, perhaps, too much. Leaving also means you gain some privacy as you don’t have to declare whatever income you pull in.

Here’s how long some other PM’s have stayed in the Commons after leaving No. 10:

Edward Heath – 27 years
David Lloyd George – 23 years
Winston Churchill – 9 years
Jim Callaghan – 8 years
John Major – 4 years
Margaret Thatcher – 1.5 years

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