“I really want people to understand, if they get a Conservative Government with me as Prime Minister, we will make sure, as we take difficult decisions, that we are compassionate, that we are reasonable, that we are responsible.”
— David Cameron, 2010.
At a recent security conference in Munich, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, criticized “state multiculturalism” while speaking on the causes of terrorism. Warning that the UK should no longer make soft choices, he called for a stronger national identity, where people from minority religions assimilated into British society, rather than leading disparate lives. But Cameron has also made it a point to emphasize that while British Muslims have a duty to integrate into British culture, mainstream Britain could learn from their way of life as well, which consists of stronger family values, lower divorce rates and scarce drug use. Strong words from the young, dynamic leader of one of the world’s oldest democracies.
It seems that in his newfound role, this Prime Minister does not hesitate to talk straight. Finding his own niche in the slippery world of international politics, Cameron became the first leader to arrive in Egypt after the collapse of the government run by former president, Hosni Mubarak. Amidst the media glare, Cameron boldly supported the members of the Egyptian transitional government.
But David Cameron modestly prefers to describe himself as a proper ‘Londoner’, having grown up in Berkshire. After attending Heatherdown Preparatory School, Cameron went on to Eton College two years sooner than his classmates due to his exemplary academic record. In 1985, he was admitted to the Bachelor of Arts program at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. And then came the turning point in Cameron’s life. During the few months of free time he had before college started, he worked as a researcher in the Parliamentary office of Tim Rathbone, Conservative MP and also his godfather. With this, Cameron took the first step on his journey to becoming the youngest Prime Minster of the United Kingdom.
After completing his studies in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford with a first class honors degree, Cameron joined the Conservative Research Department, an arm of the Conservative Party in the UK, becoming Special Adviser to Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, and later on to Michael Howard. At first, the demands of politics were not so appealing. Cameron chose to break away to enter the business world in 1994, as Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications, a media company, and this decision was seemingly vindicated in 1997 when his first candidacy for Member of Parliament from Stafford ended in defeat. But the lure of politics proved irresistible. He put in his papers at Carlton in 2001 in order to once again fight for election to Parliament. This time, David Cameron became a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Oxfordshire constituency of Witney.
As an MP, Cameron was not concerned with being politically correct and never shied away from sticking to his gun. He voted against banning the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, and opposed the introduction of a bill to ban smoking in restaurants. In 2003, he took the hawkish stand to vote against a motion that deemed the Iraq War unnecessary, and also supported using all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Months later, he had the courage to backtrack, and voted in favor of setting up a judicial inquiry into the Iraq War.
Cameron’s meteoric rise within party ranks lifted him to the vice-chairman post of the Conservative Party in 2003, when Michael Howard took over at the helm of the party. A consecutive Labour party victory in 2005 led to Michael Howard’s resignation and Cameron announced his candidacy, vowing to “make people feel good about being Conservatives again”. His image as a young, moderate candidate who would appeal to young voters, coupled with his strong and confident speaking style, was well-received within the party. Working his way up from being underdog, Cameron went on to be voted as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition. The media, though, pointed out Cameron’s relatively young age and inexperience, and relished comparing him cynically to former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Cameron announced his candidacy, vowing to “make people feel good about being Conservatives again”.
But Cameron was dedicated to proving his critics wrong, despite the challenges that awaited him. Tragedy struck his personal life when he and his wife Samantha lost their eldest son to a rare genetic disorder in 2009. Later, Cameron himself spoke how facing this misfortune tempered his resolve, and soon his resilience was there for the world to see in the 2010 general election. Cameron led the Conservatives to their best performance since 1992, with the largest number of seats. Cameron became the youngest British Prime Minister at the age of 43, and the Cameron Ministry was the first coalition government in the United Kingdom since the Second World War.
Members of the Labour party as well as the media have questioned Cameron’s seeming preference for Etonians in his cabinet, and have accused the ministry of being elitist. He has also been criticized for his foreign policy decisions, particularly for his pro-Turkey stance at the expense of Israel. Yet, after his recent trip to Egypt to support the pro-democracy movement, Cameron was lauded for his outcry against the violent suppression of protests in Libya.
Like any other world leader, Cameron takes these punches, as well as the pats on the back, in stride. A cycling enthusiast, Cameron has been photographed pedaling enthusiastically to work, moving on to the task at hand. In an increasingly volatile global political scenario, Cameron will have an upward climb. After all in today’s world, it is not easy being a contrarian. But it appears Cameron has now found his stride.
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© Thomas White International, Ltd. 2019