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Premiership of David Cameron

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Premiership of David Cameron

The premiership of David Cameron began on 11 May 2010 when Cameron accepted the Queen's invitation to form a government. This occurred upon the resignation of Cameron's predecessor as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. While serving as Prime Minister, Cameron also served as First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party.

Contents

After the 2010 general election, Cameron became Prime Minister at the head of a coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, as no party had gained an overall majority in the House of Commons. As one of his first moves Cameron appointed Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, as Deputy Prime Minister. Between them, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats controlled 363 seats in the House of Commons, with a majority of 76 seats.

After the 2015 general election, Cameron remained Prime Minister, this time at the head of a Conservative-only government with a majority of 12 seats.

Following the vote by the British public to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Cameron resigned his position in a televised speech on the morning of 24 June 2016. The Prime Minister, who had campaigned against leaving the EU, said that he had informed the Queen of his decision before going to the public. Speaking outside of 10 Downing Street, he remarked that "fresh leadership" needed to come in, stating that he would hold his position until the Tory conference to be held in October. He officially resigned as Prime Minister on 13 July 2016, following the unopposed victory of Theresa May in the leadership election on 11 July.

First term (2010–15)

At the 2010 general election on 6 May, the Conservative Party achieved its highest number of seats since the 1992 election, returning 306 MPs. However, it was still 20 seats short of an overall majority, resulting in the nation's first hung parliament since February 1974. Talks between Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg led to a coalition of the two parties, enabling the Queen to invite Cameron to form a government and become Prime Minister.

Entering government

Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron were driven from Buckingham Palace, arriving at Downing Street on 11 May. Cameron paid tribute to the outgoing Labour government and his predecessor Gordon Brown. He went on to describe the "difficult decisions" to reach "better times ahead". Cameron met with his party's MPs on 11 May, whose cheers of jubilation were heard from the central hall of the Commons. It is likely that he then explained the details of any coalition agreements made between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Cameron made his first official visits as Prime Minister in May. He first visited Scotland and met with the First Minister Alex Salmond, followed by Wales to meet with the First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Northern Ireland to meet with the First Minister Peter Robinson. His first trip to a foreign country was on 20 May to France where he met with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He visited Germany on 21 May where he held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Cabinet appointments

A press conference on the new cabinet took place on 12 May 2010. Soon after Cameron took office, it was confirmed that the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, would be appointed to the semi-official role of Deputy Prime Minister, while George Osborne would become the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Later it was confirmed that William Hague had assumed the post of Foreign Secretary and the new Home Secretary would be Theresa May. Cameron's cabinet included Clegg and four other Liberal Democrats: Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, and David Laws.

Economic issues and programme for austerity

The economy was a priority in the continuing wake of late-2000s financial crisis and the consequent increasing government debt when Cameron came into office, with the topic being of much concern in British public opinion. The government announced a policy, later called 'Plan A', of eliminating the structural deficit and ensuring that the debt-to-GDP ratio started falling by the end of the parliament in 2015. To facilitate this goal, the Office for Budget Responsibility and a government-wide spending review were created. While several government agencies have enacted spending decreases, funding policies for the National Health Service and for overseas development have been exempt.

In February 2013, the UK lost its AAA credit rating, the retention of which the government had indicated to be a priority when coming to power, for the first time since 1978. By 2015 the annual deficit had been cut by about half, (the initial target was to get it to zero), so the debt-to-GDP ratio was still rising.

Specifically, Cameron's first term in office, enacting changes from 2010 to 2014, involved about £100 billion of cuts in government expenditures. In terms of economic growth, the figures that came in were generally below expectations at first, but nationwide growth picked up to an annual rate of 3% by the end of 2014, indicating a mixed picture as many of the new job positions being created have featured relatively low wages. Cameron's administration has also pursued a policy of tax increases; however, the bulk of the deficit reduction that has occurred, more than 80% of the total, has been related to spending cuts.

In 2014, Cameron stated that the austerity programme would continue into the next parliament with further cuts to be decided after the election.

Reforms to the National Health Service

The Health and Social Care Bill was the most deep-rooted and extensive reworking of the structure of the National Health Service ever undertaken. The bill had implications for all health organisations in the NHS, not least for NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) which were by Clinical commissioning groups principally run by local GPs.

The bill was one of the government's most controversial proposals, and in April 2011 the government announced a "listening exercise" postponing further action on the bill. The controversy arose in part because the proposals were not discussed during the 2010 general election campaign and were not contained in the May 2010 Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement. Two months after the election, a white paper outlined what The Daily Telegraph called the "biggest revolution in the NHS since its foundation".

Arms sales

During the throes of the Arab Spring, for which he had voiced support, Cameron spent three days touring undemocratic Gulf states with eight of Britain's leading defence manufacturers. In response to the ensuing criticism, Cameron issued a three-point defence. Early in 2012, Cameron again visited the Middle East to "broaden and deepen" business ties with Saudi Arabia – Britain's leading arms export market – even after Amnesty International had several weeks earlier accused the Saudi government of unleashing a wave of repression against the repressed minority-Shia population in the east of the country, and even as Saudi troops added to the list of Shia protesters they had shot dead. The week before his Saudi visit, the Committees on Arms Export Controls published questions it had asked the Coalition regarding arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in particular querying why, when there was unrest in the country in 2011, licences for a range of equipment had not been revoked.

In 2014, after Israel's Operation Protective Edge, Cameron's government came under pressure to place an arms embargo on Israel. Vince Cable, whose department was ultimately responsible for such matters, issued a threat to suspend 12 export licences if violence escalated again. The threat was dismissed in Israel, and was described by one leading Israeli journalist as simply "an attempt at gesture politics to local voters".

Syria and the Middle East

The government was critical of Bashar al-Assad's government in the 2011 Syrian uprisings stating it had "forfeited the right to lead" by "miring itself in the blood of innocent people", and backed the rebels. On 24 February 2012, the government recognised the Syrian National Council as a "legitimate representative" of the country. On 20 November 2012, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was recognised as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Syrian people, and a credible alternative to the Syrian government.

On 21 August 2013, immediately following a chemical-weapons attack at Ghouta, Cameron urged U.S. President Barack Obama to respond with a military intervention. However a motion to participate in military strikes against the Syrian government was defeated in parliament on 29 August 2013. This was the first time that a British government was blocked from taking a military action by parliament. After the vote Cameron said that he "strongly [believed] in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons ... It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly".

Ultimately a negotiated agreement was reached to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

In 2014, retired General Richard Shirreff said that Cameron's "flaccid" response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant would embolden Putin's moves in the Ukraine.

Referendum on Scottish independence

A victory by the Scottish National Party in the 2011 Scottish general election raised the prospect of the Scottish Government holding an independence referendum within the following five years. Though the constitution is reserved to Westminster, the SNP planned to get round that by holding a referendum to seek a mandate to negotiate for independence. In October 2012 Cameron said that the campaign to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom was a priority for the government.

Delayed payment of EU dues

In November 2014 Cameron stated that the UK would not pay its EU dues. George Osborne later claimed victory on the dispute, noting that the UK wouldn't have to pay additional interest on the payments, which would be delayed until after Britain's 7 May 2015 general election.

Transport

After the 2010 General Election, the new Conservative-led Coalition continued Labour's policies on rail transport largely unaltered after a pause to review the finances, keeping the privatised system in place. There was continuing support for the High Speed 2 scheme and further developing plans for the route. Whilst initially showing scepticism towards the electrification of the Great Western route, they later gave the project its backing and work began formally in 2012. Crossrail and the upgrade to Thameslink are due for opening in 2018.

The Government has moved towards allowing more competition on the intercity network through open access operators. In 2015 it approved a service run by Alliance Rail to operate between London and Blackpool, and both Alliance and FirstGroup have applied to run open access services on the East Coast Main Line.

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 said Britain was seeing "the biggest investment in our roads since the 1970s, but in our railways since Victorian times".

Scandals

  • In November 2011 Home Secretary Theresa May came under heavy criticism for presiding over a scheme weakening UK border controls, and allowing potential terrorists into the country unchecked. Some of the blame also fell on (now former) Head of the UK border force Brodie Clark, whom May claimed went beyond his remit.
  • Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable was removed from a quasi-judicial role in deciding whether BSkyB should be allowed to takeover control of Sky, after being accused of bias against News Corporation, the company which owns BSkyB.
  • News of the World phone hacking scandal

    Cameron's close relationship with senior figures of News International came under increasing scrutiny as the controversy of the News of the World phone hacking scandal grew. A close friend of Rebekah Brooks, Cameron had also hired Andy Coulson as his communications director before Coulson was implicated in, and later arrested for his role in, the phone hacking. Cameron, who had spent his Christmas with Brooks, was accused by Ed Miliband of being "out of step with public opinion" and lacking leadership on the matter due to his "close relationships" with News International. The scandal was further aggravated by the announcement he had ridden Rebekah Brooks horse on loan from the Metropolitan Police, and the implicit involvement of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whom had been handed jurisdiction over Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB bid after Vince Cable's supposed expression of bias, in passing confidential information to the Murdoch empire regarding the bid's progress Right-leaning political commentator Peter Oborne argued that it was no longer possible to assert that Cameron was "grounded with a decent set of values" after a "succession of chronic personal misjudgements", equating the scandal with Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq as a turning point in his premiership, and calling for him to distance himself from Brooks.

    Second term (2015–16)

    Following the 2015 general election, Cameron remained Prime Minister, this time at the head of a Conservative-only government with a majority of 12 seats. Having gained seats from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, Cameron was able to form a government without a coalition partner, resulting in the first Conservative-only cabinet since 1997.

    2015 Summer Budget

    Following the election victory Chancellor George Osborne announced that there would be a second 2015 budget on 8 July. The main announcements included:

  • A "National Living Wage" for those over 25, of £9/hour by 2020
  • The tax-free personal allowance for Income Tax was raised to £11,000 from £10,600
  • Defence spending was protected at 2% of GDP for the duration of the Parliament
  • Welfare reform, including lowering the benefits cap to £20,000 for those outside London and limiting child tax credit to the first two children
  • An increase in the inheritance tax threshold, meaning that a married couple will be able to pass on £1million tax-free
  • A reduction in the amount individuals earning over £150,000 could pay into their pension tax-free
  • An increase in free childcare from 15 hours/week to 30 hours/week for working families with 3 and 4 year olds
  • An £800 increase in the amount of maintenance loan paid out to poorer students, paid for by replacing maintenance grants with loans
  • Measures to introduce tax incentives for large corporations to create apprenticeships, aiming for 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020.
  • Referendum on the European Union

    In his 2015 election manifesto, David Cameron pledged to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union sometime before 2017 at the latest. Following extensive negotiations between Cameron and other European leaders, the referendum took place on 23 June 2016. The British public voted to leave the European Union. He then promptly resigned in a televised speech aired across the nation's airwaves.

    His resignation was originally not to be made official until October at the party conference, leaving Mr Cameron in charge until then and a leadership election being triggered within the Conservative Party. However, following the withdrawal of the only remaining candidate, Andrea Leadsom, Theresa May was left unopposed, annulling the leadership contest. Cameron subsequently resigned with May's premiership taking effect Wednesday 13 July 2016. His departure came in spite of the fact that 82 MPs had signed a letter in favour of Mr Cameron remaining Prime Minister before the referendum. David Cameron said he was no longer the "captain" capable of steering the country in its new direction. Both Michael Gove (Justice Secretary) and Chris Grayling publicly paid tribute to Mr Cameron's leadership.

    References

    Premiership of David Cameron Wikipedia


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