James Forsyth James Forsyth

Inside David Cameron’s personal Brexit

Was he unwilling to watch as Theresa May purged his friends and his plans? Or did he just want his life back?

In the days following David Cameron’s resignation as prime minister, Michael Gove tried to persuade the Cameroons to back Boris Johnson for the job. He argued that the former London mayor was the real continuity candidate. While Johnson would strike a very different path on Europe, Gove argued, he would keep Cameron’s domestic agenda going in a way that Theresa May would not.

This was something Gove got right. But the referendum result was far too raw for this argument to work. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since May became Prime Minister, it’s been clear that she does not represent continuity. May is her own woman. The Cameroons were taken aback by her clearout of the Downing Street policy unit, then horrified when she removed so many of them from their ministerial jobs. Cameron has privately described her reordering of the government as ‘a purge’. Now, they are angry because she is pointedly reversing many of his signature policies. In the corridors of the Palace of Westminster, the Cameroons are debating how much they should resist.

According to those close to Cameron, he did not decide to resign as an MP because of the new grammar school policy. But it can’t have helped. Cameron could have sat on the back benches as his successor kept roughly to the domestic course he had set. But trooping through the lobbies, or being conspicuous by his absence, for votes that went directly against what he had done in office would, his friends say, have been too much.

Talking to his close allies, it is clear that David and Samantha Cameron want to get on with the rest of their lives. His staying at Westminster was an obstacle to that. (There’s a lot of Notting Hill chatter about how they might move to New York.)

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