What a strange farewell. The slickest, sparkiest and most brutal street-fighter the Tory party has produced in a generation found himself agreeing with his worst enemies today. ‘That says something,’ shouted David Cameron (who remains prime minister for the next week or so). ‘We have huge disagreements,’ he explained. And yet despite the fault-lines his Remain campaign enjoys the support of nearly the entire opposition: the Greens, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Northern Ireland parties and Cameron’s bete noire, the SNP. ‘When we all agree,’ he finger-wagged, ‘that really says something.’ Absolutely. It says they’re all deluded.
Does poor Cam know he’s finished? At times he seemed to sense it. ‘I’ve been in this job for six years,’ he said wistfully as if drafting a sentence for his memoirs (in the shops by Christmas.) In reply to Kelly Tolhurst he made this bizarre reference to her defeat of Mark Reckless, the UKIP double-agent, back in 2015. ‘How grateful I am that she is representing Rochester and Strood.’ He paused. ‘Happy days,’ he twinkled, ‘happy days.’ He sounded like a death-bed grandad.
His usual grasp of detail eluded him today. Asked about Derbyshire brewers he strayed into personal health advice. ‘Large quantities of real ale are the best way to get through this gruelling referendum’. Perhaps he’d been hitting the grog at elevenses. An Ulsterman thundered at him that Brexit might lead to a return of the ‘hard border’ at the Irish frontier. Cameron swayed unsteadily between two possibilities. ‘Either new border controls,’ he said vaguely, ‘or some sort of checks on people as they left Belfast to come to the rest of the United Kingdom.’ Is that a new ploy from Project Panic? A ring of steel around the Northern Ireland capital.
He tried vainly to re-detonate all his unexploded bombs. The economy wrecked. The NHS abolished. Taxes soaring. Employment plummeting. Old crocks expiring in shut-down care-homes. Europe’s terror chiefs cheerfully abandoning us to armed maniacs. And a huge black-hole in the public finances that measures anywhere between £20bn and £40bn depending which soapbox defeatist is on porkie-pie duty for the Euro-snouts.
Sane voters must have been dumbfounded by today’s session — a prolonged and futile period of navel-gazing by a set of clueless oligarchs who are miles behind their electorate. MPs still haven’t swallowed what ‘referendum’ means. They’re behaving as if it’s a parliamentary decision that obliges them to offer us plebs evidence of their profound wisdom and superior judgement. But on June 23rd, they’re us and we’re them.
Beside Cameron sat two of the Tories’ coolest cucumbers. Teresa May has flung herself into the campaign like a Trappist monk at a sign-language conference. She glanced towards her boss with chilly nervousness as he rattled through his Brexit bullet-points yet again. She managed an anxious half-grin and purred ‘hear hear’ in a bare whisper. Maybe she was just clearing her throat. On her left Philip Hammond, (aka the Human Talon), couldn’t even manage that faint syllable of assent. Is he having second thoughts? He gave a weak-tea smile and allowed his hooded lids to droop fractionally. Neither of these potentates seems ready to broach the two most feared phrases in the political lexicon. ‘Harper Collins’ and ‘autobiography’. They’re staying put.