David Cameron

This article is about the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. For other people with the same name, see David Cameron (disambiguation).

The Right Honourable
David Cameron
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
11 May 2010  13 July 2016
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Nick Clegg (2010–15)
Preceded by Gordon Brown
Succeeded by Theresa May
Leader of the Opposition
In office
6 December 2005  11 May 2010
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded by Michael Howard
Succeeded by Harriet Harman
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
6 December 2005  11 July 2016
Preceded by Michael Howard
Succeeded by Theresa May
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
In office
6 May 2005  6 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Tim Collins
Succeeded by David Willetts
Conservative Policy Review Coordinator
In office
15 March 2004  6 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by David Willetts
Succeeded by Oliver Letwin (Review Chair)
Member of Parliament
for Witney
In office
7 June 2001  12 September 2016
Preceded by Shaun Woodward
Succeeded by Robert Courts
Personal details
Born David William Donald Cameron
(1966-10-09) 9 October 1966
London, England, UK
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Samantha Sheffield (m. 1996)
  • Arthur
  • Florence
  • Ivan
  • Nancy
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Religion Anglicanism

David William Donald Cameron, PC (/ˈkæmrən/; born 9 October 1966) is a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 2010 to July 2016. He served as the Leader of the Conservative Party from December 2005 to July 2016, and was Member of Parliament for Witney from June 2001 to September 2016.[1] Cameron identifies as a One-Nation Conservative, and has been associated with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies.

Born in London to wealthy upper middle-class parents, Cameron was educated at Heatherdown School, Eton College, and Brasenose College, Oxford. From 1988 to 1993 he worked at the Conservative Research Department, assisting the Conservative Prime Minister John Major, before leaving politics to work for Carlton Communications in 1994. Becoming an MP in 2001, he served in the opposition shadow cabinet under Conservative leader Michael Howard, succeeding Howard in 2005. Cameron sought to rebrand the Conservatives, embracing an increasingly socially liberal position. The 2010 general election led to Cameron becoming Prime Minister as the head of a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.[2] His premiership was marked by the ongoing effects of the late-2000s financial crisis; these involved a large deficit in government finances that his government sought to reduce through austerity measures. His administration introduced large-scale changes to welfare, immigration policy, education, and healthcare.[3] It privatised the Royal Mail and some other state assets, and legalised same-sex marriage.

Internationally, his government militarily intervened in the Libyan Civil War and later authorised the bombing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; domestically, his government oversaw the referendum on voting reform and Scottish independence referendum, both of which confirmed Cameron's favoured outcome. When the Conservatives secured an unexpected majority in the 2015 general election, he remained as Prime Minister leading a Conservative government. To fulfil a manifesto pledge, he introduced a referendum on the UK's continuing membership of the EU. Cameron supported continued membership; following the success of the Leave vote,[4] he resigned to make way for a new Prime Minister and was succeeded by Theresa May.[4][5]

Cameron has been praised for modernising the Conservative Party and for decreasing the United Kingdom's national deficit. Conversely, he has been criticised by figures on both the left and right, and has been accused of political opportunism and elitism. Cameron appeared on the Forbes List of The World's Most Powerful People from 2010.[6]


Cameron is the younger son of Ian Donald Cameron (1932–2010) a stockbroker, and his wife Mary Fleur (née Mount; born 1934),[7] a retired Justice of the Peace and a daughter of Sir William Mount, 2nd Baronet.[8] Cameron's parents were married on 20 October 1962.[7] The journalist Toby Young has described Cameron's background as being "upper-upper-middle class".[9]

Cameron was born in Marylebone, London,[10] and raised in Peasemore, Berkshire.[11] He has a brother, Alexander Cameron, QC (born 1963), a barrister,[12] and two sisters, Tania Rachel (born 1965) and Clare Louise (born 1971).[7][13]

His father, Ian, was born at Blairmore House near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and died near Toulon, France, on 8 September 2010;[14] Ian was born with both legs deformed and underwent repeated operations to correct them. Blairmore was built by Cameron's great-great-grandfather, Alexander Geddes,[15][16] who had made a fortune in the grain trade in Chicago, Illinois, before returning to Scotland in the 1880s.[17] Blairmore was sold soon after Ian's birth.[16]

Cameron has said, "On my mother's side of the family, her mother was a Llewellyn, so Welsh. I'm a real mixture of Scottish, Welsh, and English."[18] He has also referenced the German Jewish ancestry of one of his great-grandfathers, Arthur Levita, a descendant of the Yiddish author Elia Levita.[19][20]


From the age of seven, Cameron was educated at two independent schools: at Heatherdown School in Winkfield (near Ascot) in Berkshire, which counts Prince Andrew and Prince Edward among its old boys. Owing to good grades, Cameron entered its top academic class almost two years early.[21] At the age of thirteen, he went on to Eton College in Berkshire, following his father and elder brother.[22] His early interest was in art. Six weeks before taking his O-Levels he was caught smoking cannabis.[23] He admitted the offence and had not been involved in selling drugs, so he was not expelled but was fined, prevented from leaving the school grounds, and given a "Georgic" (a punishment which involved copying 500 lines of Latin text).[24]

Cameron passed twelve O-Levels and then three A-levels: History of art; History, in which he was taught by Michael Kidson; and Economics with Politics. He obtained three 'A' grades and a '1' grade in the Scholarship Level exam in Economics and Politics.[25] The following autumn, he passed the entrance exam for the University of Oxford, and was offered an exhibition at Brasenose College.[26]

Brasenose College, Oxford

After leaving Eton in 1984,[27] Cameron started a nine-month gap year. For three months he worked as a researcher for his godfather Tim Rathbone, then Conservative MP for Lewes, during which time he attended debates in the House of Commons.[28] Through his father, he was then employed for a further three months in Hong Kong by Jardine Matheson as a 'ship jumper', an administrative post.[29]

Returning from Hong Kong, Cameron visited the then Soviet Union, where he was approached by two Russian men speaking fluent English. Cameron was later told by one of his professors that it was "definitely an attempt" by the KGB to recruit him.[30]

In October 1985, Cameron began his Bachelor of Arts course in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Brasenose College, Oxford.[31] His tutor, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, has described him as "one of the ablest" students he has taught,[32] with "moderate and sensible Conservative" political views.[13]

Guy Spier, who shared tutorials with him, remembers him as an outstanding student: "We were doing our best to grasp basic economic concepts. David—there was nobody else who came even close. He would be integrating them with the way the British political system is put together. He could have lectured me on it, and I would have sat there and taken notes."[33] When commenting in 2006 on his former pupil's ideas about a "Bill of Rights" to replace the Human Rights Act, however, Professor Bogdanor, himself a Liberal Democrat, said, "I think he is very confused. I've read his speech and it's filled with contradictions. There are one or two good things in it but one glimpses them, as it were, through a mist of misunderstanding".[34]

While at Oxford, Cameron was a member of the student dining society the Bullingdon Club, which has a reputation for an outlandish drinking culture associated with boisterous behaviour and damaging property.[35] Cameron's period in the Bullingdon Club was examined in a Channel 4 docu-drama, When Boris Met Dave.

Cameron graduated in 1988 with a first-class honours BA degree (later promoted to an MA by seniority).[36]

Early political career

Conservative Research Department

After graduation, Cameron worked for the Conservative Research Department between September 1988 and 1993. His first brief was Trade and Industry, Energy and Privatisation, and he befriended fellow young colleagues including Edward Llewellyn, Ed Vaizey and Rachel Whetstone. They and others formed a group they called the "Smith Square set", which was dubbed the "Brat Pack" by the press, though it is better known as the "Notting Hill set", a name given to it pejoratively by Derek Conway.[37] In 1991, Cameron was seconded to Downing Street to work on briefing John Major for the then bi-weekly sessions of Prime Minister's Questions. One newspaper gave Cameron the credit for "sharper ... Despatch box performances" by Major,[38] which included highlighting for Major "a dreadful piece of doublespeak" by Tony Blair (then the Labour Employment spokesman) over the effect of a national minimum wage.[39] He became head of the political section of the Conservative Research Department, and in August 1991 was tipped to follow Judith Chaplin as Political Secretary to the Prime Minister.[40]

However, Cameron lost to Jonathan Hill, who was appointed in March 1992. Instead, Cameron was given the responsibility for briefing Major for his press conferences during the 1992 general election.[41] During the campaign, Cameron was one of the young "brat pack" of party strategists who worked between 12 and 20 hours a day, sleeping in the house of Alan Duncan in Gayfere Street, Westminster, which had been Major's campaign headquarters during his bid for the Conservative leadership.[42] Cameron headed the economic section; it was while working on this campaign that Cameron first worked closely with and befriended Steve Hilton, who was later to become Director of Strategy during his party leadership.[43] The strain of getting up at 04:45 every day was reported to have led Cameron to decide to leave politics in favour of journalism.[44]

Special Adviser to the Chancellor

The Conservatives' unexpected success in the 1992 election led Cameron to hit back at older party members who had criticised him and his colleagues, saying "whatever people say about us, we got the campaign right," and that they had listened to their campaign workers on the ground rather than the newspapers. He revealed he had led other members of the team across Smith Square to jeer at Transport House, the former Labour headquarters.[45] Cameron was rewarded with a promotion to Special Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont.[46]

Cameron was working for Lamont at the time of Black Wednesday, when pressure from currency speculators forced the pound sterling out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. At the 1992 Conservative Party conference, Cameron had difficulty trying to arrange to brief the speakers in the economic debate, having to resort to putting messages on the internal television system imploring the mover of the motion, Patricia Morris, to contact him.[47] Later that month Cameron joined a delegation of Special Advisers who visited Germany to build better relations with the Christian Democratic Union; he was reported to be "still smarting" over the Bundesbank's contribution to the economic crisis.[48]

Lamont fell out with John Major after Black Wednesday and became highly unpopular with the public. Taxes needed to be raised in the 1993 Budget, and Cameron fed the options Lamont was considering through to Conservative Campaign Headquarters for their political acceptability to be assessed.[49] By May 1993, the Conservatives' average poll rating dropped below 30%, where they would remain until the 1997 general election.[50] Major and Lamont's personal ratings also declined dramatically. However, Lamont's unpopularity did not necessarily affect Cameron: he was considered as a potential "kamikaze" candidate for the Newbury by-election, which includes the area where he grew up.[51] However, Cameron decided not to stand.

During the by-election, Lamont gave the response "Je ne regrette rien" to a question about whether he most regretted claiming to see "the green shoots of recovery" or admitting to "singing in his bath" with happiness at leaving the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Cameron was identified by one journalist as having inspired this gaffe; it was speculated that the heavy Conservative defeat in Newbury may have cost Cameron his chance of becoming Chancellor himself, even though as he was not a Member of Parliament he could not have been.[52] Lamont was sacked at the end of May 1993, and decided not to write the usual letter of resignation; Cameron was given the responsibility to issue to the press a statement of self-justification.[53]

Special Adviser to the Home Secretary

The Home Office building Cameron worked at during the 1990s

After Lamont was sacked, Cameron remained at the Treasury for less than a month before being specifically recruited by Home Secretary Michael Howard. It was commented that he was still "very much in favour"[54] and it was later reported that many at the Treasury would have preferred Cameron to carry on.[55] At the beginning of September 1993, Cameron applied to go on Conservative Central Office's list of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.[56]

Cameron was much more socially liberal than Howard but enjoyed working for him.[50] According to Derek Lewis, then Director-General of Her Majesty's Prison Service, Cameron showed him a "his and hers list" of proposals made by Howard and his wife, Sandra. Lewis said that Sandra Howard's list included reducing the quality of prison food, although Sandra Howard denied this claim. Lewis reported that Cameron was "uncomfortable" about the list.[57] In defending Sandra Howard and insisting that she made no such proposal, the journalist Bruce Anderson wrote that Cameron had proposed a much shorter definition on prison catering which revolved around the phrase "balanced diet", and that Lewis had written thanking Cameron for a valuable contribution.[58]

During his work for Howard, Cameron often briefed the media. In March 1994, someone leaked to the press that the Labour Party had called for a meeting with John Major to discuss a consensus on the Prevention of Terrorism Act. After an inquiry failed to find the source of the leak, Labour MP Peter Mandelson demanded assurance from Howard that Cameron had not been responsible, which Howard gave.[59][60] A senior Home Office civil servant noted the influence of Howard's Special Advisers, saying previous incumbents "would listen to the evidence before making a decision. Howard just talks to young public school gentlemen from the party headquarters."[61]


In July 1994, Cameron left his role as Special Adviser to work as the Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications.[62] Carlton, which had won the ITV franchise for London weekdays in 1991, was a growing media company which also had film-distribution and video-producing arms. Cameron was suggested for the role to Carlton executive chairman Michael P. Green by his later mother-in-law Lady Astor.[63] Cameron left Carlton to run for Parliament in 1997, returning to his job after his defeat.

In 1997, Cameron played up the Company's prospects for digital terrestrial television, for which it joined with ITV Granada and Sky to form British Digital Broadcasting. In a roundtable discussion on the future of broadcasting in 1998 he criticised the effect of overlapping different regulators on the industry.[64] Carlton's consortium did win the digital terrestrial franchise but the resulting company suffered difficulties in attracting subscribers. Cameron resigned as Director of Corporate Affairs in February 2001 in order to run for Parliament for a second time, although he remained on the payroll as a consultant.

Parliamentary candidacies

Stafford, the constituency Cameron contested in 1997

Having been approved for the Candidates' list, Cameron began looking for a seat to contest for the 1997 general election. He was reported to have missed out on selection for Ashford in December 1994 after failing to get to the selection meeting as a result of train delays.[65] In January 1996, when two shortlisted contenders dropped out, Cameron was interviewed and subsequently selected for Stafford, a constituency revised in boundary changes, which was projected to have a Conservative majority.[50][66] The incumbent Conservative MP, Bill Cash, ran instead in the neighbouring constituency of Stone, where he was re-elected. At the 1996 Conservative Party Conference, Cameron called for tax cuts in the forthcoming Budget to be targeted at the low-paid and to "small businesses where people took money out of their own pockets to put into companies to keep them going".[67] He also said the Party "should be proud of the Tory tax record but that people needed reminding of its achievements ... It's time to return to our tax-cutting agenda. The socialist Prime Ministers of Europe have endorsed Tony Blair because they want a federal pussy cat and not a British lion."[68]

When writing his election address, Cameron made his own opposition to British membership of the single European currency clear, pledging not to support it. This was a break with official Conservative policy but about 200 other candidates were making similar declarations.[69] Otherwise, Cameron kept closely to the national party line. He also campaigned using the claim that a Labour Government would increase the cost of a pint of beer by 24p; however, the Labour candidate, David Kidney, portrayed Cameron as "a right-wing Tory". Initially, Cameron thought he had a 50/50 chance but as the campaign wore on and the scale of the impending Conservative defeat grew, Cameron prepared himself for defeat.[70] On election day, Stafford had a swing of 10.7%, almost the same as the national swing, which made it one of the many seats to fall to Labour: Kidney defeated Cameron by 24,606 votes (47.5%) to 20,292 (39.2%), a majority of 4,314 (8.3%).[71][72]

In the round of selection contests taking place in the run-up to the 2001 general election, Cameron again attempted to be selected for a winnable seat. He tried for the Kensington and Chelsea seat after the death of Alan Clark, but did not make the shortlist. He was in the final two but narrowly lost at Wealden in March 2000,[73] a loss ascribed by Samantha Cameron to his lack of spontaneity when speaking.[74]

On 4 April 2000 Cameron was selected as prospective candidate (PPC) for Witney in Oxfordshire. This had been a safe Conservative seat but its sitting MP Shaun Woodward (who had worked with Cameron on the 1992 election campaign) had "crossed the floor" to join the Labour Party and was selected instead for the safe Labour seat of St Helens South. Cameron's biographers Francis Elliott and James Hanning describe the two men as being "on fairly friendly terms".[75] Cameron, advised in his strategy by friend Catherine Fall, put a great deal of effort into "nursing" his potential constituency, turning up at social functions, and attacking Woodward for changing his mind on fox hunting to support a ban.[76]

During the election campaign, Cameron accepted the offer of writing a regular column for The Guardian's online section.[77] He won the seat with a 1.9% swing to the Conservatives, taking 22,153 votes (45%) to Labour candidate Michael Bartlet's 14,180 (28.8%), a majority of 7,973 (16.2%).[78][79]

Member of Parliament, 2001–05

Upon his election to Parliament, he served as a member of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, a prominent appointment for a newly elected MP. Cameron proposed that the Committee launch an inquiry into the law on drugs,[80] and urged the consideration of "radical options".[81] The report recommended a downgrading of Ecstasy from Class A to Class B, as well as moves towards a policy of 'harm reduction', which Cameron defended.[82]

Cameron determinedly attempted to increase his public visibility, offering quotations on matters of public controversy. He opposed the payment of compensation to Gurbux Singh, who had resigned as head of the Commission for Racial Equality after a confrontation with the police;[83] and commented that the Home Affairs Select Committee had taken a long time to discuss whether the phrase "black market" should be used.[84] However, he was passed over for a front-bench promotion in July 2002; Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith did invite Cameron and his ally George Osborne to coach him on Prime Minister's Questions in November 2002. The next week, Cameron deliberately abstained in a vote on allowing same-sex and unmarried couples to adopt children jointly, against a whip to oppose; his abstention was noted.[85] The wide scale of abstentions and rebellious votes destabilised the Duncan Smith leadership.

In June 2003, Cameron was appointed a shadow minister in the Privy Council Office as a deputy to Eric Forth, then Shadow Leader of the House. He also became a vice- chairman of the Conservative Party when Michael Howard took over the leadership in November of that year. He was appointed Opposition frontbench local government spokesman in 2004, before being promoted to the Shadow Cabinet that June as head of policy co-ordination. Later, he became Shadow Education Secretary in the post-election reshuffle.[86]

Daniel Finkelstein has said of the period leading up to Cameron's election as leader of the Conservative party that "a small group of us (myself, David Cameron, George Osborne, Michael Gove, Nick Boles, Nick Herbert I think, once or twice) used to meet up in the offices of Policy Exchange, eat pizza, and consider the future of the Conservative Party".[87] Cameron's relationship with Osborne is regarded as particularly close; Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi suggested the closeness of Osborne's relationship with Cameron meant the two effectively shared power during Cameron's time as Prime Minister.[88]

From February 2002 to August 2005 he was a non-executive director of Urbium PLC, operator of the Tiger Tiger bar chain.[89]

Conservative Party leadership

David Cameron campaigning for the 2006 local elections in Newcastle upon Tyne

2005 leadership election

Following the Labour victory in the May 2005 general election, Michael Howard announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party and set a lengthy timetable for the leadership election. Cameron announced on 29 September 2005 that he would be a candidate. Parliamentary colleagues supporting him included Boris Johnson, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, Shadow Defence Secretary and deputy leader of the party Michael Ancram, Oliver Letwin[90] and former party leader William Hague.[91] His campaign did not gain wide support until his speech, delivered without notes, at the 2005 Conservative party conference. In the speech he vowed to make people "feel good about being Conservatives again" and said he wanted "to switch on a whole new generation."[92] His speech was well-received; The Daily Telegraph said speaking without notes "showed a sureness and a confidence that is greatly to his credit".[93]

In the first ballot of Conservative MPs on 18 October 2005, Cameron came second, with 56 votes, slightly more than expected; David Davis had fewer than predicted at 62 votes; Liam Fox came third with 42 votes; and Kenneth Clarke was eliminated with 38 votes. In the second ballot on 20 October 2005, Cameron came first with 90 votes; David Davis was second, with 57; and Liam Fox was eliminated with 51 votes.[94] All 198 Conservative MPs voted in both ballots.

The next stage of the election process, between Davis and Cameron, was a vote open to the entire party membership. Cameron was elected with more than twice as many votes as Davis and more than half of all ballots issued; Cameron won 134,446 votes on a 78% turnout, to Davis's 64,398.[95] Although Davis had initially been the favourite, it was widely acknowledged that his candidacy was marred by a disappointing conference speech.[96] Cameron's election as the Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition was announced on 6 December 2005. As is customary for an Opposition leader not already a member, upon election Cameron became a member of the Privy Council, being formally approved to join on 14 December 2005, and sworn of the Council on 8 March 2006.[97]

Reaction to Cameron as Leader

Cameron being interviewed at the headquarters of Oxfam in 2006

Cameron's relative youth and inexperience before becoming leader have invited satirical comparison with Tony Blair. Private Eye soon published a picture of both leaders on its front cover, with the caption "World's first face transplant a success".[98] On the left, the New Statesman unfavourably likened his "new style of politics" to Tony Blair's early leadership years.[99] Cameron was accused of paying excessive attention to appearance: ITV News broadcast footage from the 2006 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth shows him wearing four different sets of clothes within a few hours.[100] In his Guardian column, comedy writer and broadcaster Charlie Brooker described the Conservative leader as "a hollow Easter egg with no bag of sweets inside" in April 2007.[101]

On the right of the party, Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative chairman, likened Cameron to Pol Pot, "intent on purging even the memory of Thatcherism before building a New Modern Compassionate Green Globally Aware Party".[102] Quentin Davies MP, who defected from the Conservatives to Labour on 26 June 2007, branded him "superficial, unreliable and [with] an apparent lack of any clear convictions" and stated that David Cameron had turned the Conservative Party's mission into a "PR agenda".[103] Traditionalist conservative columnist and author Peter Hitchens wrote, "Mr Cameron has abandoned the last significant difference between his party and the established left", by embracing social liberalism.[104] Daily Telegraph correspondent and blogger Gerald Warner was particularly scathing about Cameron's leadership, saying that it alienated traditionalist conservative elements from the Conservative Party.[105]

Before he became Conservative leader, Cameron was reported to be known to friends and family as "Dave", though his preference is "David" in public.[106][107] Labour used the slogan Dave the Chameleon in their 2006 local elections party broadcast to portray Cameron as an ever-changing populist, which was criticised as negative campaigning by the conservative press including The Telegraph,[108] though Cameron asserted the broadcast had become his daughter's "favourite video".[109]

Shadow Cabinet appointments

Cameron speaking at the Home Office, on 13 May 2010

His Shadow Cabinet appointments included MPs associated with the various wings of the party. Former leader William Hague was appointed to the Foreign Affairs brief, while both George Osborne and David Davis were retained, as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Shadow Home Secretary respectively. Hague, assisted by Davis, stood in for Cameron during his paternity leave in February 2006. In June 2008 Davis announced his intention to resign as an MP, and was immediately replaced as Shadow Home Secretary by Dominic Grieve; Davis' surprise move was seen as a challenge to the changes introduced under Cameron's leadership.[110]

David Cameron with the future Prime Minister Theresa May, who was a member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1999 until 2010

In January 2009 a reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet was undertaken. The chief change was the appointment of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke as Shadow Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Secretary, David Cameron stating that "With Ken Clarke's arrival, we now have the best economic team." The reshuffle also saw eight other changes made.[111]

European Conservatives and Reformists

During his successful 2005 campaign to be elected Leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron pledged that the Conservative Party's Members of the European Parliament would leave the European People's Party group, which had a "federalist" approach to the European Union.[112] Once elected Cameron began discussions with right-wing and Eurosceptic parties in other European countries, mainly in eastern Europe, and in July 2006 he concluded an agreement to form the Movement for European Reform with the Czech Civic Democratic Party, leading to the formation of a new European Parliament group, the European Conservatives and Reformists, in 2009 after the European Parliament elections.[113] Cameron attended a gathering at Warsaw's Palladium cinema celebrating the foundation of the alliance.[114]

In forming the caucus, which had 54 MEPs drawn from eight of the 27 EU member states, Cameron reportedly broke with two decades of Conservative co-operation with the centre-right Christian Democrats, the European People's Party (EPP),[115] on the grounds that they are dominated by European federalists and supporters of the Lisbon treaty.[115] EPP leader Wilfried Martens, former Prime Minister of Belgium, has stated "Cameron's campaign has been to take his party back to the centre in every policy area with one major exception: Europe. ... I can't understand his tactics. Merkel and Sarkozy will never accept his Euroscepticism."[115]

Shortlists for Parliamentary candidates

Similarly, Cameron's initial "A-List" of prospective parliamentary candidates was attacked by members of his party,[116] and the policy was discontinued in favour of sex-balanced final shortlists. Before being discontinued, the policy had been criticised by senior Conservative MP and former Prisons Spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe as an "insult to women", and she had accused Cameron of "storing up huge problems for the future."[117]

2010 general election

The Conservatives had last won a general election in 1992. The general election of 2010 resulted in the Conservatives, led by Cameron, winning the largest number of seats (306). This was, however, 20 seats short of an overall majority and resulted in the nation's first hung parliament since February 1974.[118]

Talks between Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg led to an agreed Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Cameron in late 2009 had urged the Liberal Democrats to join the Conservatives in a new "national movement" saying there was "barely a cigarette paper" between them on a large number of issues. The invitation was rejected at the time by the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, who said that the Conservatives were totally different from his party and that the Lib Dems were the true "progressives" in UK politics.[119]

Prime Minister

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, 26 June 2010
Meeting with US President Barack Obama during the 2010 G20 Toronto summit

On 11 May 2010, following the resignation of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister and on his recommendation, Elizabeth II invited Cameron to form a government.[120] At age 43, Cameron became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812, beating the record previously set by Tony Blair in May 1997.[2] In his first address outside 10 Downing Street, he announced his intention to form a coalition government, the first since the Second World War, with the Liberal Democrats.

Cameron in 2009 as Leader of the Opposition, with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who later became Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Lib Dem spokesman Chris Huhne

Cameron outlined how he intended to "put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest."[2] As one of his first moves Cameron appointed Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, as Deputy Prime Minister on 11 May 2010.[120] Between them, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats controlled 363 seats in the House of Commons, with a majority of 76 seats.[121] On 2 June 2010, when Cameron took his first session of Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) as Prime Minister, he began by offering his support and condolences to those affected by the shootings in Cumbria.[122]

In June 2010 Cameron described the economic situation as he came to power as "even worse than we thought" and warned of "difficult decisions" to be made over spending cuts.[123] By the beginning of 2015 he was able to claim that his government's austerity programme had succeeded in halving the budget deficit, though critics described the claim as misleading since it was only true of the deficit measured as a percentage of GDP[124][125]

On 5 February 2011, Cameron criticised the failure of 'state multiculturalism', in his first speech as PM on radicalisation and the causes of terrorism.[126] In July 2015, he outlined a five-year strategy to counter Islamist extremism and subversive teachings.[127]

Cameron agreed to holding the Scottish independence referendum, 2014 and eliminated the "devomax" option from the ballot for a straight out yes or no vote. He supported the successful Better Together campaign. He had also backed a successful campaign to retain the status quo in a referendum on changing the voting system held at the request of his coalition partners.

He supported the introduction of gay marriage despite more of his own Conservative MPs voting against the move than for it, meaning the support of Lib Dem MPs in government and Labour MPs in opposition was required to allow it to pass.[128]

Earlier in his term he had managed to secure a huge majority for UK participation in UN-backed military action in Libya.[129] However, Cameron became the first prime minister in over 100 years to lose a foreign policy vote in the House of Commons over proposed military action against Assad's regime in Syria.[130]

2015 general election

Cameron with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło in Warsaw, 10 December 2015

On 7 May 2015, Cameron was re-elected UK Prime Minister with a majority in the Commons. The Conservative Party's decisive win in the general election was as a surprise victory, as most polls and commentators predicted the outcome would be too close to call and result in a second hung parliament.[131] Cameron said of his first term when returned as Prime Minister for a second term that he was "proud to lead the first coalition government in 70 years" and offered particular thanks to Clegg for his role in it.[132] Forming the first Conservative majority government since 1992, David Cameron became the first Prime Minister to be re-elected immediately after a full term with a larger popular vote share since Lord Salisbury at the 1900 general election.

In response to the November 2015 Paris attacks, Cameron secured the support of the House of Commons to extend air strikes against ISIS into Syria.[133]

2016 referendum and resignation

Cameron announcing his resignation as Prime Minister in the wake of the UK vote on EU membership.

As promised in the election manifesto, Cameron set a date for a referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union, and announced that he would be campaigning for Britain to remain within a "reformed EU".[134] The terms of the UK's membership of the EU were re-negotiated, with agreement reached in February 2016.[135]

In the referendum of 23 June 2016, the British electorate voted in favour of leaving the European Union.[136][137][138] On 24 June, a few hours after the results became known, Cameron announced that he would resign the office of Prime Minister by the start of the Conservative Party Conference in October 2016.[4][139][140] Very intense criticism followed the realisation of just how much the referendum had split the country, with The Independent saying it was called to save Cameron's job and was an act of "indescribably selfish recklessness."[141] In late July, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was told that Cameron had refused to allow the Civil service to make plans for Brexit, a decision the committee described as "an act of gross negligence."[142]

The Conservative Party leadership election was scheduled for 9 September and the new leader was expected to be in place by the autumn conference, set to begin on 2 October.[143] On 11 July, following the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom from the Conservative Party leadership election and the confirmation of Theresa May as the new leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron announced he would hold a final cabinet meeting on 12 July and then following a final Prime Minister's Questions submit his resignation to the Queen on the afternoon of 13 July. After his final Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron received a standing ovation from MPs; his final comment was, "I was the future once" – a reference to his 2005 quip to Tony Blair, "he was the future once". Cameron then submitted his resignation to the Queen later that day.[144]

Although no longer serving as Prime Minister, Cameron originally stated that he would continue inside Parliament, on the Conservative backbenches.[145] On 12 September however, Cameron announced that he was resigning his seat with immediate effect.[1] He was succeeded as MP for Witney by fellow Conservative Robert Courts.[146] The Washington Post described him as having "sped away without glancing back" once Theresa May had "vaulted herself out of the hurricane-strength political wreckage of Britain's vote to leave the European Union."[147]

In October 2016, Cameron became chairman of the National Citizen Service Patrons.[148]

Policies and views

Self-description of views

Cameron describes himself in December 2005 as a "modern compassionate conservative" and has spoken of a need for a new style of politics, saying that he was "fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster".[149] He is "certainly a big Thatcher fan, but I don't know whether that makes me a Thatcherite",[150] claiming to be a "liberal Conservative", though "not a deeply ideological person."[151] As Leader of the Opposition, Cameron asserted that he did not intend to oppose the government as a matter of course, and would offer his support in areas of agreement. He has urged politicians to concentrate more on improving people's happiness and "general well-being", instead of focusing solely on "financial wealth".[152] There were claims that he described himself to journalists at a dinner during the leadership contest as the "heir to Blair".[153]

In his first Conservative Conference speech as party leader in Bournemouth in 2006, he described the National Health Service as "one of the 20th Century's greatest achievements". He went on to say, "Tony Blair explained his priorities in three words: education, education, education. I can do it in three letters: N.H.S." He also talked about his severely disabled son, Ivan, concluding "So, for me, it is not just a question of saying the NHS is safe in my hands—of course it will be. My family is so often in the hands of the NHS, so I want them to be safe there."[154]

Cameron talks with US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 25 May 2011

Cameron said that he believes in "spreading freedom and democracy, and supporting humanitarian intervention" in cases such as the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. However, he rejected neo-conservatism because, as a conservative, he recognises "the complexities of human nature, and will always be sceptical of grand schemes to remake the world."[155] A supporter of multilateralism as "a country may act alone—but it cannot always succeed alone", he believes multilateralism can take the form of acting through "NATO, the UN, the G8, the EU and other institutions", or through international alliances.[156] Cameron said that "If the West is to help other countries, we must do so from a position of genuine moral authority" and "we must strive above all for legitimacy in what we do."[156]

He believes that British Muslims have a duty to integrate into British culture, but noted in an article published in 2007 that the Muslim community finds aspects such as high divorce rates and drug use uninspiring, and that "Not for the first time, I found myself thinking that it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around."[157] In 2010 he appointed the first Muslim member of the British cabinet, Baroness Warsi, as a minister without portfolio, and in 2012 made her a special minister of state in foreign affairs. She resigned, however, in August 2014 over the government's handling of the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.

Whilst urging members of his party to support the coalition's proposals for same-sex marriage, Cameron said that he backed gay marriage not in spite of his conservatism but because he is a conservative, and claimed it was about equality.[158] In 2012, Cameron publicly apologised for Thatcher-era policies on homosexuality, specifically the introduction of the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which he described as "a mistake".[159]

Comments on other parties and politicians

Cameron criticised Gordon Brown (when Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer) for being "an analogue politician in a digital age" and referred to him as "the roadblock to reform".[160] He said that John Prescott "clearly looks a fool" after Prescott's personal indiscretions were revealed in spring 2006, and wondered if the Deputy Prime Minister had broken the ministerial code.[161] During a speech to the Ethnic Media Conference on 29 November 2006, Cameron also described Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, as an "ageing far left politician" in reference to Livingstone's views on multiculturalism.[162]

As Prime Minister, he reacted to press reports that Brown could be the next head of the International Monetary Fund by hinting that he may block the appointment, citing the huge national debt that Brown left the country with as a reason for Brown not being suitable for the role.[163]

Cameron with his predecessors Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major, and deputy Nick Clegg, during Barack Obama's address to Parliament, 10 June 2011

In April 2006, Cameron accused the UK Independence Party of being "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly,"[164] leading UKIP MEP Nigel Farage (who became leader in September of that year) to demand an apology for the remarks. Right-wing Conservative MP Bob Spink, who later defected to UKIP, also criticised the remarks,[165] as did The Daily Telegraph.[166] Cameron was seen encouraging Conservative MPs to join the standing ovation given to Tony Blair at the end of his last Prime Minister's Question Time; he had paid tribute to the "huge efforts" Blair had made and said Blair had "considerable achievements to his credit, whether it is peace in Northern Ireland or his work in the developing world, which will endure".[167]

In 2006, Cameron made a speech in which he described extremist Islamic organisations and the British National Party as "mirror images" to each other, both preaching "creeds of pure hatred".[168] Cameron is listed as being a supporter of Unite Against Fascism.[169]

In September 2015, after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, Cameron called the party a "threat" to British national and economic security, on the basis of Corbyn's defence and fiscal policies.[170]

Political commentary

Allegations of social elitism

Cameron speaking at a Conservative reception in 2008

While Leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron has been accused of reliance on "old-boy networks",[171] and conversely attacked by his party for the imposition of selective shortlists of women and ethnic minority prospective parliamentary candidates.[116]

Some of Cameron's senior appointments, such as George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer, are former members of the Bullingdon Club. Michael Gove conceded it was "ridiculous" how many fellow Cabinet ministers were old-Etonians, though he placed the blame on the failings of the state education system rather than Cameron.[172] However, Michael Mosbacher, co-founder of Standpoint magazine, wrote that Cameron's Cabinet has the lowest number of Etonians of any past Conservative government: "David Cameron's government is the least patrician, least wealthy and least public-school-educated—indeed the least Etonian Conservative-led government this country has ever seen".[173]

Cameron speaking in 2010


In 2006 Cameron described poverty as a "moral disgrace"[174] and promised to tackle relative poverty.[175] In 2007 Cameron promised, "We can make British poverty history, and we will make British poverty history". Also in 2007 he stated "Ending child poverty is central to improving child well-being".[176] In 2015 Polly Toynbee questioned Cameron's commitment to tackling poverty, contrasting his earlier statements agreeing that "poverty is relative" with proposals to change the government's poverty measure, and saying that cuts in child tax credits would increase child poverty among low-paid working families.[177]

Food banks

The rapid growth in the use of food banks under David Cameron became one of the major criticisms of his administration, and a recurring theme at Prime Minister's Questions.[178][179] Cameron praised volunteers providing donated food as "part of what I call the Big Society", to which Labour leader Ed Miliband responded that he "never thought the Big Society was about feeding hungry children in Britain".[180]

In February 2014, 27 Anglican bishops together with leading Methodists and Quakers wrote an open letter to Cameron blaming government policy for a rise in the use of food banks. The letter asserted that "over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cutbacks to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions".[181] The government responded that delays in benefit processing had been reduced, with the proportion of benefits paid on time rising from 88–89% under Labour, to 96–97% in 2014.[182] Cameron said that the rise in food bank usage was due to the government encouraging Jobcentres and local authorities to promote them, and noted an OECD report which showed a fall in the proportion of people in Britain struggling to buy food.[183]


David Cameron's government introduced a law to prevent raising Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT rates. Ameet Gill, aide to Cameron at the time claims this was "poorly thought out", done "on the hoof" and "probably the dumbest economic policy". Labour considered the policy unwise and claimed it would make ending the spending deficit harder. Conservatives claimed they were leaving people with more of their own money to spend.[184][185]


During the MPs expenses scandal in 2009, Cameron said he would lead Conservatives in repaying "excessive" expenses and threatened to expel MPs that refused after the expense claims of several members of his shadow cabinet had been questioned:

We have to acknowledge just how bad this is, the public are really angry and we have to start by saying, "Look, this system that we have, that we used, that we operated, that we took part in—it was wrong and we are sorry about that".[186]
Cameron is in favour of self-determination for Gibraltarians, 10 September 2013

One day later, The Daily Telegraph published figures showing over five years he had claimed £82,450 on his second home allowance.[187] Cameron repaid £680 claimed for repairs to his constituency home.[188] Although he was not accused of breaking any rules, Cameron was placed on the defensive over mortgage interest expense claims covering his constituency home, after a report in The Mail on Sunday suggested he could have reduced the mortgage interest bill by putting an additional £75000 of his own money towards purchasing the home in Witney instead of paying off an earlier mortgage on his London home.[189] Cameron said that doing things differently would not have saved the taxpayer any money, as he was paying more on mortgage interest than he was able to reclaim as expenses anyway[189] He also spoke out in favour of laws giving voters the power to "recall" or "sack" MPs accused of wrongdoing.[189] In April 2014, he was criticised for his handling of the expenses row surrounding Culture Secretary Maria Miller, when he rejected calls from fellow Conservative MPs to sack her from the front bench.[190]

Raising teaching standards

At the launch of the Conservative Party's education manifesto in January 2010, Cameron declared an admiration for the "brazenly elite" approach to education of countries such as Singapore and South Korea and expressed a desire to "elevate the status of teaching in our country".[191] He suggested the adoption of more stringent criteria for entry to teaching and offered repayment of the loans of maths and science graduates obtaining first or 2.1 degrees from "good" universities.[192]

Wes Streeting, then president of the National Union of Students, said "The message that the Conservatives are sending to the majority of students is that if you didn't go to a university attended by members of the Shadow Cabinet, they don't believe you're worth as much."[193]


Commenting on rail fare increases in January 2015, Cameron said "We've made sure that rail fares cannot go up by more than inflation. So the rail fare increase this year, as last year, is linked to inflation, and I think that's right. In previous years it's gone up by more than inflation. But, of course, what you're seeing on our railways is a £38bn investment project. And that money is coming, of course, from taxpayers, from the government, and from farepayers as well." He described the policies of his government as "the biggest investment in our roads since the 1970s, but in our railways since Victorian times".[194]

South Africa

In April 2009, The Independent reported that in 1989, while Nelson Mandela remained imprisoned under the apartheid regime, David Cameron had accepted a trip to South Africa paid for by an anti-sanctions lobby firm. A spokesperson for Cameron responded by saying that the Conservative Party was at that time opposed to sanctions against South Africa and that his trip was a fact-finding mission. However, the newspaper reported that Cameron's then superior at Conservative Research Department called the trip "jolly", saying that "it was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job. The Botha regime was attempting to make itself look less horrible, but I don't regard it as having been of the faintest political consequence." Cameron distanced himself from his party's history of opposing sanctions against the regime. He was criticised by Labour MP Peter Hain, himself an anti-apartheid campaigner.[195]

Iraq War

In an interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in 2006, Cameron said that he supported the decision of the then Labour Government to go to war in Iraq, and said that he thought supporters should "see it through".[196] He also supported a motion brought by the SNP and Plaid Cymru in 2006 calling for an inquiry into the government's conduct of the Iraq war. In 2011, he oversaw the withdrawal of British soldiers from Iraq. He repeatedly called for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war to conclude and publish its findings, saying "People want to know the truth".[197]

NATO military intervention in Libya

Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague speaking to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the London Conference on Libya, 29 March 2011.

Libya–United Kingdom relations soured in 2011 with the outbreak of the Libyan Civil War. Cameron condemned the "appalling and unacceptable" violence used against anti-Gaddafi protesters.[198] After weeks of lobbying by the UK and its allies, on 17 March 2011 the United Nations Security Council approved a no-fly zone to prevent government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out air attacks on anti-Gaddafi rebels.[199] Two days later the UK and the United States fired more than 110 Tomahawk missiles at targets in Libya.[200]

Cameron has said he is "proud" of the role United Kingdom played in the overthrow of Gaddafi's government.[201] Cameron also stated that UK had played a "very important role",[202] adding that "a lot of people said that Tripoli was completely different to Benghazi and that the two don't get on—they were wrong. ... People who said 'this is all going to be an enormous swamp of Islamists and extremists'—they were wrong."[203]

In March 2016, with two main rival factions based in Tripoli and Benghazi continuing to fight, an Independent editorial noted that "there can be no question that Libya is broken. There are three nominal governments, none of which holds much authority. The economy is flatlining. Refugees flood to the Mediterranean. And Isis has put down roots in Sirte and, increasingly, Tripoli."[204][205] It was at this time that US President Barack Obama accused Cameron of allowing Libya to sink into a "mess", though in private the American leader bluntly describes post-intervention Libya as a "shit show".[206]

In 2015 through 2016 the Foreign Affairs Select Committee conducted an extensive and highly critical inquiry into the British involvement in the civil war. It concluded that the early threat to civilians had been overstated and that the significant Islamist element in the rebel forces had not been recognised, due to an intelligence failure. By summer 2011 the initial limited intervention to protect Libyan civilians had become a policy of regime change. However that new policy did not include proper support and for a new government, leading to a political and economic collapse in Libya and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. It concluded that Cameron was ultimately responsible for this British policy failure.[207][208][209]

Military intervention in Iraq and Syria

In August 2013, Cameron lost a motion in favour of bombing Syrian armed forces in response to the Ghouta chemical attack, becoming the first prime minister to suffer such a foreign-policy defeat since 1782.[210] In September 2014, MPs passed a motion in favour of British planes joining, at the request of the Iraqi government, a bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq;[211] the motion explicitly expressed parliament's disapproval of UK military action in Syria.[212] Cameron promised that, before expanding UK air strikes to include IS units in Syria, he would seek parliamentary approval.[213]

In July 2015, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Reprieve revealed that, without the knowledge of UK parliamentarians, RAF pilots had, in fact, been bombing targets in Syria, and that Cameron knew of this.[214][215] The prime minister, along with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, faced strong criticism, including from Tory MPs, for not informing the Commons about this deployment; the Ministry of Defence said that the pilots concerned were "embedded" with foreign military forces, and so were "effectively" operating as such, while Fallon denied that MPs had been, as he put it, "kept in the dark".[216][217][218] The Reprieve FoI request also revealed that British drone pilots had been embedded, almost continuously, with American forces at Creech Air Force Base since 2008. These drone operators, who were "a gift of services", meaning the UK still paid their salaries and covered their expenses, had been carrying out operations that included reconnaissance in Syria to assist American strikes against IS.[219]

Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, G20 Antalya summit, Turkey, 16 November 2015

Fallon said that it was "illogical" for the UK not to bomb ISIL in Syria as the organisation does not "differentiate between Syria and Iraq" and is "organised and directed and administered from Syria".[220] Following the terrorist attacks on Paris in November 2015, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, Cameron began pushing for a strategy for the Royal Air Force to bomb Syria in retaliation.[221] Cameron set out his case for military intervention to Parliament on 26 November, telling MPs that it was the only way to guarantee Britain's safety and would be part of a "comprehensive" strategy to defeat IS.[222] On 3 December 2015 MPs voted 397–223 in favour of launching air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. The vote for military action was supported by all but seven members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party, as well as 66 Labour MPs who backed the government in defiance of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who had expressed his opposition to air strikes.[223]


In 2013, in response to Argentina's calls for negotiations over the Falkland Islands' sovereignty, a referendum was called asking Falkland Islanders whether they supported the continuation of their status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. With a turnout of 91.94%, an overwhelming 99.8% voted to remain a British territory with only three votes against.[224]

In light of this, Cameron said: "We believe in the Falkland islanders' right to self-determination. They had a referendum. They couldn't have been more clear about wanting to remain with our country and we should protect and defend them".[225]


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cameron at the Wembley Stadium, 13 November 2015

Cameron has been a strong advocate of increased ties between India and the United Kingdom, describing Indian–British relations as the "New Special Relationship" in 2010.[226][227]

In October 2012, as Narendra Modi rose to prominence in India, the UK rescinded its boycott of the then-Gujarat state Chief Minister over religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 that left more than 2,000 dead,[228] and in November 2013, Cameron commented that he was "open" to meeting Modi.[229]

Modi was later elected as Prime Minister in a landslide majority, leading to Cameron calling Modi and congratulating him on the "election success",[230] one of the first Western leaders to do so.[231]

Sri Lanka

Cameron reiterated calls for an independent investigation into the alleged war crimes during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War.[232] "There needs to be proper inquiries into what happened at the end of the war, there needs to be proper human rights, democracy for the Tamil minority in that country" Cameron stated.[233][234] He stated that, if this investigation was not completed by March 2014, he would press for an independent international inquiry.[235][236][237] This followed a visit to Jaffna, a war-ravaged town in the northern part of Sri Lanka; Cameron was the first foreign leader to visit Jaffna since the island once colonised by Britain became independent in 1948.[238][239] Cameron was mobbed by demonstrators, mostly women, seeking his assistance in tracing missing relatives.[240][241]


In 2015, Theresa May's political adviser Nick Timothy wrote an article to express his worry that People's Republic of China was effectively buying Britain's silence on allegations of Chinese human rights abuse and opposed China's involvement in sensitive sectors such as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. He criticizes David Cameron and George Osborne of "selling our national security to China" without rational concerns and "the Government seems intent on ignoring the evidence and presumably the advice of the security and intelligence agencies."[242][243]

Turkey and Israel

In a speech in Ankara in July 2010, Cameron stated unequivocally his support for Turkey's accession to the EU, citing economic, security and political considerations, and claimed that those who opposed Turkish membership were driven by "protectionism, narrow nationalism or prejudice".[244][245] In that speech, he was also critical of Israeli action during the Gaza flotilla raid and its Gaza policy, and repeated his opinion that Israel had turned Gaza into a "prison camp",[244] having previously referred to Gaza as "a giant open prison".[246] These views were met with mixed reactions.[247][248][249] The Cameron government does not formally recognise the Ottoman Empire's massacres of Armenians as a "genocide".[250]

During the EU referendum campaign, Cameron stated that Turkey was unlikely to be ready to join the EU 'until the year 3000' at its current rate of progress.[251]

At the end of May 2011, Cameron stepped down as patron of the Jewish National Fund,[252][253] becoming the first British prime minister not to be patron of the charity in the 110 years of its existence.[254]

In a speech in 2011 Cameron said: "You have a Prime Minister whose commitment and determination to work for peace in Israel is deep and strong. Britain will continue to push for peace, but will always stand up for Israel against those who wish her harm". He said he wanted to reaffirm his "unshakable" belief in Israel within the same message.[255] He also voiced his opposition to the Goldstone Report, claiming it had been biased against Israel and not enough blame had been placed on Hamas.

In March 2014, during his first visit to Israel as Prime Minister, Cameron addressed Israel's Knesset in Jerusalem, where he offered his full support for peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, hoping a two-state solution might be achieved.[256] He also made clear his rejection of trade or academic boycotts against Israel,[257] acknowledged Israel's right to defend its citizens as "a right enshrined in international law," and made note of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, as "the moment when the State of Israel went from a dream to a plan, Britain has played a proud and vital role in helping to secure Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people."[256] During his two-day visit, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.[258] Senior Foreign Office minister The Baroness Warsi resigned over the Cameron government's decision not to condemn Israel for the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, saying that the government's "approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible."[259]

Saudi Arabia

Cameron supports Britain's close relationship with Saudi Arabia.[260] In January 2015, Cameron travelled to the Saudi capital Riyadh to pay his respects following the death of the nation's King Abdullah.

According to WikiLeaks, Cameron initiated a secret deal with Saudi Arabia ensuring both were elected onto the U.N. Human Rights Council.[261] Cameron's government announced "firm political support" for the 2015 Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen against the Shi'a Houthis,[262] re-supplying the Saudi military with weapons and providing them with training.[263][264][265]

LGBT rights

Back in 2010 David Cameron was given a score of 36% in favour of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality by Stonewall.[266] Prior to 2005, David Cameron was opposed to gay rights, calling it a "fringe agenda" and attacking the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for "moving heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in our schools" by repealing the anti-gay Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.[267] Cameron is also recorded by Hansard as having voted against same-sex adoption rights in 2002, but he denies this, claiming he abstained from the three-line whip imposed on him by his party. In 2008, he wanted lesbians who receive IVF treatment to be required to name a father figure, which received condemnation from LGBT equality groups.[267] However, Cameron supported commitment for gay couples in a 2005 speech, and in October 2011 urged Conservative MPs to support gay marriage.[158]

In November 2012, Cameron and Nick Clegg agreed to fast-track legislation for introducing same-sex marriage.[268] Cameron stated that he wanted to give religious groups the ability to host gay marriage ceremonies, and that he did not want to exclude gay people from a "great institution".[269] In 2013, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 became law despite opposition from more than half of his fellow Conservative MPs, including Cabinet ministers Owen Paterson and David Jones.[270] He also subsequently appointed two women who had voted against same-sex marriage as ministers in the Government Equalities Office, Nicky Morgan and Caroline Dinenage following the 2015 general election.[271]

In August 2013, he rejected calls by Stephen Fry and others to strip Russia from hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics due to its anti-gay laws.[272] Cameron did not attend the games but denied it was a boycott in protest at Russia's laws, having previously raised the issue of gay rights in the country with Vladimir Putin.[273]


Cameron said immigration from outside the EU should be subject to annual limits. He said in July 2013 that "in the last decade we have had an immigration policy that's completely lax. The pressure it puts on our public services and communities is too great."[274] In 2015, The Independent reported, "The Conservatives have failed spectacularly to deliver their pledge to reduce net migration to less than 100,000 a year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced a net flow of 298,000 migrants to the UK in the 12 months to September 2014—up from 210,000 in the previous year."[275]

Allegations of recreational drug use

During the leadership election, allegations were made that Cameron had used cannabis and cocaine recreationally before becoming an MP.[276] Pressed on this point during the BBC television programme Question Time, Cameron expressed the view that everybody was allowed to "err and stray" in their past.[277] During his 2005 Conservative leadership campaign he addressed the question of drug consumption by remarking that "I did lots of things before I came into politics which I shouldn't have done. We all did."[277]

Defence cuts

Cameron visits British troops in Afghanistan, 3 October 2014

In 2014, Cameron dismissed warnings that his cuts to the UK defence budget had left it less than a "first class-player in terms of defence" and no longer a "full partner" to the United States.[278]

In the July 2015 budget Chancellor George Osborne announced that the UK defence spending would meet the NATO target of 2% of GDP.[279]

Criticism of use of statutory instruments

In January 2016, The Independent reported that there had been an increase of over 50% in the use of statutory instruments since 2010. Lord Jopling deplored the behaviour which he called an abuse whilst The Baroness Smith of Basildon asked whether it was the start of "constitutional Gerrymandering."[280]

Political relationships

Plots against leadership

In the 2012 local elections, the Conservative Party's share of the vote fell from 35% to 31%, losing control of several councils including Plymouth, Southampton, Harlow, Redditch, Worcester and Great Yarmouth, after a difficult few months for the government, with Labour increasing its lead in the polls. This led to concerns from Conservative MPs about Cameron's leadership and his electability. David Davies, the chairman of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, accused the Tory leadership of "incompetence" and hinted that it could risk Cameron's leadership.[281] Nadine Dorries warned the Prime Minister that a leadership challenge could happen.[282]

Later that year, Brian Binley openly said that Cameron's leadership was like being a "maid" to the Liberal Democrats, and accused him of leading the party to defeat. In January 2013 it was revealed that Adam Afriyie was planning his own bid for the Tory leadership with the support of fellow MPs Mark Field, Bill Wiggin, Chris Heaton-Harris, Patrick Mercer, Jonathan Djanogly and Dan Byles. The Times and ConservativeHome revealed that a 'rebel reserve' of 55 Tory MPs gave firm pledges to a co-ordinating MP to support a motion of 'no confidence' and write to Brady simultaneously, which would be enough MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence as the level of MPs needed to trigger such vote is 46.[283] Andrew Bridgen openly called for a vote of confidence in Cameron's leadership and claimed that the Prime Minister had a "credibility problem" but he dropped his bid for a contest a year later.[284]

Cameron and Andy Coulson

In 2007 Cameron appointed Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, as his director of communications. Coulson had resigned as the paper's editor following the conviction of a reporter in relation to illegal phone hacking, although stating that he knew nothing about it.[285][286] In June 2010 Downing Street confirmed Coulson's annual salary as £140,000, the highest pay of any special adviser to UK Government.[287]

In January 2011 Coulson left his post, saying coverage of the phone-hacking scandal was making it difficult to give his best to the job.[285] In July 2011 he was arrested and questioned by police in connection with further allegations of illegal activities at the News of the World, and released on bail. Despite a call to apologise for hiring Coulson by the leader of the opposition, Cameron defended the appointment, saying that he had taken a conscious choice to give someone who had screwed up a second chance.[288] On 20 July, in a special parliamentary session at the House of Commons, arranged to discuss the News International phone hacking scandal, Cameron said that he "regretted the furore" that had resulted from his appointment of Coulson, and that "with hindsight" he would not have hired him.[289] Coulson was detained and charged with perjury by Strathclyde Police on 30 May 2012.[290][291] Coulson was convicted of conspiracy to hack phones in June 2014. Prior to the jury handing down their verdict, Cameron issued a "full and frank" apology for hiring him, saying "I am extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I am very clear about that." The judge hearing Coulson's trial was critical of the prime minister, pondering whether the intervention was out of ignorance or deliberate, and demanded an explanation.[292]

Cameron and Lord Ashcroft

Although Lord Ashcroft played a significant role in the 2010 election, he was not offered a ministerial post.[293] In June 2012, shortly before a major Tory rebellion on House of Lords reform,[294] journalist Peter Oborne credited Ashcroft with "stopping the Coalition working" by moving policy on Europe, welfare, education, taxation to the right.[293] According to Oborne, Ashcroft, owner of both the ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome websites and a "brutal critic of the Coalition from the start", had established "megaphone presence" in the on-line media. He believes Cameron's philosophy of liberal conservatism has been destroyed by "coordinated attacks on the Coalition" and "the two parties are no longer trying to pretend that they are governing together."[293]

In The Observer, Andrew Rawnsley commented that he believes that Ashcroft uses carefully timed opinion polls to "generate publicity", "stir trouble for the prime minister" and influence the direction of the party.[295] In 2015 Ashcroft released Call Me Dave, an unauthorised biography of Cameron written with journalist Isabel Oakeshott, which attracted significant media attention for various lurid allegations about Cameron's time at university. The book includes an anonymous anecdote about Cameron, now referred to as Piggate. No evidence for the anecdote has been produced. Many commentators have described the accusations as a "revenge job" by Ashcroft, who was not offered a senior role in government when Cameron came to power in 2010.[296][297] Ashcroft initially claimed the book was "not about settling scores", while Oakeshott said that they had held back publication until after the 2015 general election to avoid damaging Cameron and the Conservatives' electoral chances.[298] Ashcroft subsequently admitted that the initiation allegations "may have been case of mistaken identity" and has stated that he has a personal "beef" with Cameron.[296][297][299][300][301] Cameron later went on to deny these allegations and stated that Ashcroft's reasons for writing the book were clear and the public could see clearly through it.[302]

Standing in opinion polls

Before premiership

In the first month of Cameron's leadership, the Conservative Party's standing in opinion polls rose, with several pollsters placing it ahead of the ruling Labour Party. While the Conservative and Labour Parties drew even in early spring 2006, following the May 2006 local elections various polls once again generally showed Conservative leads.[303][304]

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007, Labour moved ahead and its ratings grew steadily at Cameron's expense, an ICM poll[305] in July showing Labour with a seven-point lead. An ICM poll[306][307] in September saw Cameron rated the least popular of the three main party leaders. A YouGov poll for Channel 4 one week later, after the Labour Party Conference, extended the Labour lead to 11 points, prompting further speculation of an early election.[308]

Following the Conservative Party Conference in October 2007, the Conservatives drew level with Labour.[309] When Brown declared he would not call an election for the autumn,[310] a decline in his and Labour's standings followed. At the end of the year a series of polls showed improved support for the Conservatives giving them an 11-point lead over Labour. By May 2008, following the worst local election performance from the Labour Party in 40 years, the Conservative lead was up to 26 points, the largest since 1968.[311]

In late 2009, the Conservative lead decreased and by January 2010 some polls were predicting a hung parliament, which was the eventual result.[312]

During premiership, 2010–16

First term

A YouGov poll on party leaders conducted on 9–10 June 2011 found 44% of the electorate thought he was doing well and 50% thought he was doing badly, whilst 38% thought he would be the best PM and 35% did not know.[313]

Until his veto on treaty changes to the European Union in December 2011 amid the Eurozone crisis, most opinion polls that year had shown a slim Labour lead. Many opinion polls showed that the majority of voters felt that Cameron made the right decision. Subsequent opinion polls have shown a narrow lead for the Conservatives ahead of Labour.[314]

In the run up to the 2015 election, Cameron achieved his first net positive approval rating in four years, with a YouGov poll finding 47% of voters thought he was doing well as prime minister compared with 46% who thought he was doing badly.[315]

Second term

Protesters outside 10 Downing Street calling for Cameron to resign over the Panama Papers scandal, 9 April 2016

In September 2015, a Opinium poll had similar results to the one shortly before the election, with voters split with 42% who approved of him and 41% who did not.[316] Under their new leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour support continued to lag behind that of the Conservatives.[317][318] Cameron had significantly better net approval ratings in polls conducting in December and January (getting −6 in both) than Corbyn (who got −38 and −39).[319] However, following the Panama Papers leak in April 2016, his personal approval ratings fell below Corbyn's.[320]

Personal life


Cameron is married to Samantha Gwendoline Sheffield, the daughter of Sir Reginald Sheffield, 8th Baronet, and Annabel Lucy Veronica Jones (now Viscountess Astor). A Marlborough College school friend of Cameron's sister Clare, Samantha accepted Clare's invitation to accompany the Cameron family on holiday in Tuscany, Italy, after graduating from Bristol School of Creative Arts. It was then David and Samantha's romance started. They were married on 1 June 1996 at the Church of St Augustine of Canterbury, East Hendred, Oxfordshire, five years before Cameron was elected to parliament.[7] The Camerons have had four children. Their first, Ivan Reginald Ian, was born on 8 April 2002 in Hammersmith and Fulham, London, with a rare combination of cerebral palsy and a form of severe epilepsy called Ohtahara syndrome, requiring round-the-clock care. Recalling the receipt of this news, Cameron was quoted as saying: "The news hits you like a freight train ... You are depressed for a while because you are grieving for the difference between your hopes and the reality. But then you get over that, because he's wonderful."[321] Ivan was cared for at the specialist NHS Cheyne Day Centre in West London, which closed shortly after he left it. Ivan died at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London, on 25 February 2009, aged six.[322]

Samantha Cameron in a saree with David Cameron welcoming Indian Prime Minister Modi, 13 November 2015

The Camerons have two daughters, Nancy Gwen (born 2004) and Florence Rose Endellion (born 24 August 2010),[323] and a son, Arthur Elwen (born 2006).[324] Cameron took paternity leave when Arthur was born, and this decision received broad coverage.[325] It was also stated that Cameron would be taking paternity leave after his second daughter was born.[323] She was born on 24 August 2010, three weeks prematurely, while the family was on holiday in Cornwall. Her third given name, Endellion, is taken from the village of St Endellion near where the Camerons were holidaying.[326][327]

In early May 2008, the Camerons decided to enrol their daughter Nancy at a state primary school. For three years before that they had been attending its associated church, St Mary Abbots,[328] near the Cameron family home in North Kensington.[329] Cameron's constituency home is in Dean, Oxfordshire, and the Camerons have been described as key members of the Chipping Norton set.[330]

On 8 September 2010, it was announced that Cameron would miss Prime Minister's Questions in order to fly to southern France to see his father, Ian Cameron, who had suffered a stroke with coronary complications. Later that day, with David and other family members at his bedside, Ian died.[331] On 17 September 2010, Cameron attended a private ceremony for the funeral of his father in Berkshire, which prevented him from hearing the address of Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall, an occasion he would otherwise have attended.[332]

Inheritance and family wealth

In October 2010, David Cameron inherited £300,000 from his father's will. The Camerons' family fortune was built up by his late father, Ian Cameron, who had worked as a stockbroker in the City. Ian Cameron used multimillion-pound investment funds based in offshore tax havens, such as Jersey, Panama City, and Geneva, to increase the family wealth. In 1979 he took advantage of the end of capital controls made by Margaret Thatcher during her first month in power, which made it lawful to take money out of the country without it being taxed or subject to any financial controls by the UK government.[333][334][335][336] In 1982, Ian Cameron created the Panamanian Blairmore Holdings Inc. an offshore investment fund, valued at about $20 million in 1988, "not liable to taxation on its income or capital gains", which used bearer shares until 2006.[337]

In April 2016, following the Panama Papers financial documents leak, David Cameron faced calls to resign after he was forced to admit that he and his wife Samantha profited from Ian Cameron's offshore fund.[338] He owned £31,500 of shares in the fund and sold them for a profit of £19,000 shortly before becoming Prime Minister in 2010.[339] The former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, even argued that Cameron "shouldn't just resign, he should be sent to prison".[340] David Cameron argued that the fund was set up in Panama so that people who wanted to invest in dollar-denominated shares and companies could do so.[341] Cameron had personally intervened in 2013 to water down a planned EU crackdown on tax evasion.[342]

Thousands of protesters assembled in London on 9 April 2016 to demand Cameron's resignation.[343][344][345] A second protest demanding Cameron's resignation followed on 16 April 2016.[346][347]

An estimate of his worth is £3.2 million, though this figure excludes the six-figure legacies Cameron is expected to inherit from both sides of his family.[348]


Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, François Hollande, and others watch the penalty shootout of the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. The faces of Cameron, Obama, and Merkel reflect the outcome of the match – a Chelsea victory on penalties.

Before becoming prime minister, Cameron regularly used his bicycle to commute to work. In early 2006, he was photographed cycling to work, followed by his driver in a car carrying his belongings. His Conservative Party spokesperson subsequently said that this was a regular arrangement for Cameron at the time.[349] Cameron is an occasional jogger and in 2009 raised funds for charities by taking part in the Oxford 5K and the Great Brook Run.[350]

Cameron supports Aston Villa,[351] although at a press conference on 25 April 2015 jokingly claimed he would rather people support West Ham United – who wear the same colours as Villa – than Manchester United. This "brain fade" (as Cameron himself called his slip-up) received widespread Twitter coverage under the name '#villagate'.[352] Although a Villa supporter, he was photographed celebrating Chelsea's victory over Bayern Munich in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. The match took place during the 38th G8 summit, and Cameron celebrated an English victory while in the same room as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a noted football fan.[353][354][355]

Cameron is also a keen cricket fan and has appeared on Test Match Special.[356]


At a Q&A in August 2013, Cameron described himself as a practising Christian and an active member of the Church of England.[357] On religious faith in general he has said: "I do think that organised religion can get things wrong but the Church of England and the other churches do play a very important role in society."[358] He says he considers the Bible "a sort of handy guide" on morality.[359] He views Britain as a "Christian country" and aims to put faith back into politics.[360]

Titles and honours





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Further reading

Full biography

Books about Cameron as leader

Published works by and about

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Shaun Woodward
Member of Parliament
for Witney

Succeeded by
Robert Courts
Political offices
Preceded by
David Willetts
Conservative Policy Review Coordinator
Title next held by
Oliver Letwin
as Conservative Policy Review Chair
Preceded by
Tim Collins
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Succeeded by
David Willetts
Preceded by
Michael Howard
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Harriet Harman
Preceded by
Gordon Brown
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Theresa May
Minister for the Civil Service
First Lord of the Treasury
Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael Howard
Leader of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Theresa May
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Barack Obama
Chairperson of the Group of 8
Succeeded by
José Manuel Barroso
Herman Van Rompuy
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