‘Cameron was a statesman but confidence was his undoing’

Prime Minister David Cameron at Archant newsroom ahead of the EU referendum. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Prime Minister David Cameron at Archant newsroom ahead of the EU referendum. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

As David Cameron enjoys his last day as prime minister, EDP political editor Annabelle Dickson looks at his strengths and weaknesses.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

There was a moment when the pound was plunging after news the nation had voted for Brexit, and nobody quite knew what would happen next, that there was a sort of affection for the steady hand David Cameron had previously shown in a crisis.

Even among those critical of both his foreign and domestic policies, statesmanlike was an adjective used time and again to describe him as people looked around to see who might go toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Barack Obama next.

But it is not just at the international summits that Mr Cameron has held his own.

Visits to regions around the country have been a hallmark of his time in post, and as a regular to East Anglia I have often seen him at work first hand.

Mr Cameron's public relations background has undoubtedly stood him in good stead.

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Most recently during his visit to the Eastern Daily Press offices where we threw an audience of our readers at him to ask what they wanted, most there, including those who were not his biggest fans, agreed that he is a smooth operator.

He took heckling with humour and was willing to engage.

When he makes a gaffe, he is self-depreciating.

In the House of Commons chamber he has been an assured operator. When he is on the rack he often delivers.

I have sat through numerous statements in the House of Commons press gallery when something horrific has happened. People often joke about his stamina in enduring the gruelling task of taking questions from all corners of the House for many hours, answering in detail and with patience, but most importantly striking the right tone.

That is his job, of course. But it is a rare quality.

Of course, Mr Cameron is no saint and arguably his character flaws have been his undoing.

Behind the charm, the mask occasionally slips and self confidence slips into arrogance.

There is a fine line between wit and an insult.

Most of us saw it when he told the Labour leader to 'put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem'.

I saw the temper at first hand when I interviewed him before the general election last year in Downing Street.

He was rattled when I asked if he was going to give his associations a say over a future coalition, and pointed out that 'we are fighting for a majority' would not answer the question.

He looked at me with disdain and retorted that we are fighting for a majority was an answer.

Admittedly he had the last laugh.

But you can often judge a boss by the reaction of the employees. There has been an admiration for him at Number 10 where civil servants refer to him affectionately as 'the boss'.

When he announced his resignation on June 24, aides were in tears. While there are some within his party who will be pleased to see him go, he is popular with the majority.

He has always spent time in the members tea room joining backbenchers.

David Cameron will always be remembered as the man who took us out of the European Union - whether that is a good or a bad thing, history will judge.

When historians reflect on the personality of the 75th British prime minister since Sir Robert Walpole, I think they will regard him as someone at ease on the world stage, but a man whose self-assurance and confidence in his own ability to persuade that was his undoing.