Jon Ashworth: DIY recession – leadership the Cameron way

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To say it’s been a momentous week for our country and our politics would be an understatement.  Britain has voted to leave the European Union and our Prime Minister has resigned, leaving a power vacuum at the heart of government at a time of real economic uncertainty. For this the Conservative Party bear a heavy responsibility.

David Cameron has consistently said that his fundamental mission in politics was to “deliver economic security and peace of mind for every family in Britain”. Hard to disagree with the sentiment, but as so often with the Prime Minister the test is not what he says but what he does. Far from safeguarding the economy, we are now seeing Sterling take a nosedive, some of the biggest falls for the FTSE 100 and 250 years, our credit rating downgraded and the Bank of England having to shore up liquidity in the financial system with emergency funding.

David Cameron and George Osborne knew there would be risks to the economy from a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. We know this because they said so.  They said that voting out would cause a “DIY recession” that it would be akin to putting a “bomb under the economy”.  Yet he led us into a referendum, despite the risk, and he then made a fundamental error: he allowed the debate to become a proxy for a future Conservative leadership contest. In doing so the Prime Minister presented people with carte blanche to send him a message over his record of failure. He can hardly be surprised that many have taken the opportunity to give him a kicking.

For years Cameron lamented his own backbenchers for “banging on about Europe”, but in the end he caved to internal pressure to try and save his own skin.  It has backfired spectacularly.  This was a referendum David Cameron led us in to not out of principle but out of self-interest. His poor judgement now threatens jobs, wages and living standards for working people up and down the country.

Ultimately he has paid the price for his own hubris. Others will be left to carry the can for his failure; but perhaps more importantly the would be challengers now lining up for the top job having promised the earth must now deliver.

But already the Leave campaign’s promises are unravelling.  The £350 million extra a week promised to the NHS – a promise endorsed by Boris Johnson and others on a daily basis – has been exposed for the sham it always was. So too the Leave campaign’s promises on immigration – seen by many people as the key issue in the referendum – which have disappeared quicker that George Osborne under pressure. When we need certainty the Leave campaign offer confusion and doubt: Boris Johnson wants us in the single market despite saying its achievements were ‘fraudulent’ or ‘overstated’ while his lieutenant Michael Gove is with Nigel Farage and wants us out altogether.

The Leave campaign have already admitted that there is no real plan for the country in event of Brexit.  The Conservatives have revealed themselves as incapable of providing the answers we need and as ever, it is those most in need who will suffer the most at the hands of their failure.  David Cameron might be losing his job, but he won’t be the hardest hit.  In his own words “we all know too well who’s hit hardest in a recession, the poorest and the most vulnerable”.

This is not the leadership that the country needs. The British people deserve better.

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