The recurring sight of our former PM grinning by a luxury shed has become a shortcut for the complacency and dim-witted sense of entitlement that got us into the current Brexit mess.
It seems that every time we experience a day of unremitting, Brexit-related chaos – as we have again this week – the Guardian writer John Harris tweets out the same, uncaptioned photo of our previous prime minister. Beaming and ruddy-faced, David Cameron is pictured in his garden, perched on the steps of a £25,000 shed designed for his memoir writing.
The photo needs no accompaniment, so perfectly does it encapsulate the out-of-touch complacency of a man who plunged his country into the worst crisis it has known for decades, then promptly left to spend time with the baubles of his wealth and privilege.
Cameron hasn’t been allowed to forget his authorship of Brexit – and rightly so. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from this ongoing debacle, it’s that vanity and arrogance are no substitute for genuine substance and principle. The problem now is that the breed of vacuous, preening politicians that Cameron represents is still dominant in Westminster, hence the current shambles.
Our former PM is quoted as saying that he wanted the job “because I think I’d be good at it”, and that cocksure sense of entitlement followed him into office. You could see it in his regular ‘Flashman’ routines in the House of Commons, when he was more concerned with getting one over his Labour opponents than building a coherent programme of policies.
And you could see it too in his phoney claims of ‘relatability’, from his professed love of pasties to his fair-weather support for Aston Villa, which was embarrassingly exposed when he got the club confused with West Ham.
Cameron’s hubris reached its pinnacle and was ultimately his undoing when he rolled the dice on holding an EU referendum, believing his usual patter and unshakeable self-belief would be enough to win the day. It failed, and while the country has been thrown into turmoil, Cameron has been ‘chillaxing’ in his shed and – as Danny Dyer pointed out – posting photos of his “trotters up” while holidaying in Europe.
It was reported in January that Cameron pocketed £800,000 within a year of quitting as prime minister, and more riches will undoubtedly follow with the publication of his memoirs and public speaking opportunities. The rest of us will always have the image of Cameron and his luxury shed – a shortcut for the kind of vainglorious emptiness that we must strive to avoid in future leaders.