The Prime Minister was right to resign. Leadership after defeat would have proven exceptionally difficult. The former Cabinet secretary, Lord Butler, was right to say of the PM before the referendum that his position “would be untenable if we vote to leave. Having committed himself so very strongly to the Remain campaign, his authority as PM would have been shattered”. Second, we need government to lead us in a calm and orderly fashion out of the EU and into a positive global trading position: having said that the sky would fall in if we leave, the Prime Minister could hardly do so. Finally, he who presides over a split rarely heals it. Cameron’s decision lights the way for a united Tory party, able both to lead us out of the EU and build the organisation fit to fight the 2020 election. (And, unlike some of his predecessors, the PM won’t undermine his successor.) I didn’t agree with the positions he took during the campaign but, in resigning in a gracious and statesman-like manner, he did the right thing. I admire him for it.
David Cameron’s resignation was very much a personal decision and a perfectly understandable one. As a Cameron supporter it has been galling to hear those who campaigned for Brexit to say that the PM leaving was not the outcome they wanted – they broke it, now they own it. Why should David Cameron sort out the mess they have created? However, for people who appreciate the work that Cameron has done to make the Conservative Party electable, these are worrying times. Arguably, it would have been more desirable to see Cameron go for a more measured handover timetable, as Michael Howard arranged for him in 2005. The risk now is that the Party indulges itself and elects a myopically Eurosceptic leader to negotiate our withdrawal. This person may well lack the wider appeal to the centre ground needed to win the General Election in 2020. I hope this isn’t a further consequence of Cameron’s decision to call the Referendum.