David Cameron is quitting as an MP. The former Prime Minister has just told ITV’s Chris Ship that he is resigning with immediate effect, prompting a by-election in Witney.
Cameron’s decision is a surprise. It had long been assumed that Cameron would be the anti-Blair, staying on as the MP for Witney for some time after leaving Number 10. In that famous 2015 interview with James Landale, when he committed to not standing for election as Prime Minister again, Cameron waxed lyrical about his connections with Witney and the importance he attached to them. By going with immediate effect, Cameron has missed the opportunity to demonstrate to voters the importance he placed on being a good constituency MP.
If Cameron had stayed on as an active member of the Commons, he could also have shown that he wanted to continue contributing to public life even after he had finished as Prime Minister. Right now, Cameron risks being mocked for reacting to his referendum defeat by taking his ball home.
The departure of David Cameron is also a blow to the Commons. The House is desperately short of backbenchers with experience of high office, who can contribute the benefit of their experience to parliamentary debate. Cameron quitting compounds this problem.