Cameron, David


Cameron, David
▪ 2006

      On Dec. 6, 2005, David Cameron was elected leader of Britain's Conservative Party at the age of 39 and after only four years in Parliament. He faced the daunting task of reviving the fortunes of a party that had dominated British politics for most of the 20th century but had sustained three of the heaviest election defeats (1997, 2001, and 2005) in its history.

      David William Donald Cameron was born in London on Oct. 9, 1966. Unlike the previous six Conservative leaders, he was born into a family with both wealth and an aristocratic pedigree. He was a descendent of King William IV. (Cameron's wife, Samantha, could also claim royal blood: she was descended from King Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn.) Cameron, the son of a prosperous businessman, went to Eton College and Brasenose College, Oxford, from which he graduated (1988) with a first-class degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. At Oxford he was a member of the Bullingdon Club, a males-only dining club with a reputation for heavy drinking and occasionally riotous behaviour. In 2005 Cameron refused to answer questions about whether he had taken cocaine in his student days.

      After Oxford, Cameron joined the Conservative Party Research Department. In 1992 he became a special adviser to Norman Lamont, then chancellor of the Exchequer, and the following year he undertook the same role for Michael Howard, then home secretary. Cameron joined the media company Carlton Communications in 1994 as director of corporate affairs. He stayed at Carlton until entering Parliament in 2001 as MP for Witney, northwest of London.

      Cameron quickly attracted attention as the leading member of a new generation of Conservatives: young, moderate, and charismatic. He was widely compared to Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (Blair, Tony ) (q.v.), who had acquired a similar reputation when he entered Parliament 18 years earlier. After just two years as an MP, Cameron was appointed to his party's “front bench”—making him a leading Conservative spokesman in the House of Commons. In 2004 Howard, by then party leader, appointed his young protégé to the post of head of policy coordination, which put Cameron in charge of preparing the Conservatives' 2005 election manifesto. The party's heavy defeat provoked Howard's resignation and a leadership contest.

      Cameron's astonishingly self-assured speech, made without notes, at the party's annual conference in October transformed his reputation, especially when compared with the flat, uninspiring speech given by the early front-runner, the more right-wing David Davis. In the first ballot of party MPs, former chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who had been expected to be the moderates' standard-bearer, was eliminated. In the second ballot Cameron won 90 votes, versus 57 for Davis and 51 for another right-winger, Liam Fox. Under party rules the names of the top two candidates were then put to a ballot of local party members, and Cameron defeated Davis by 68–32%. In his first shadow cabinet Cameron reached across the party's political spectrum and offered posts to Davis, Fox, and other former opponents.

Peter Kellner

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▪ British politician
in full  David William Donald Cameron 
born Oct. 9, 1966, London, Eng.
 
 British politician, who became head of Britain's Conservative Party in 2005.

      Cameron, a descendant of King William IV, was born into a family with both wealth and an aristocratic pedigree. He attended Eton College and Brasenose College, Oxford, from which he graduated (1988) with a first-class degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. After Oxford he joined the Conservative Party Research Department. In 1992 he became a special adviser to Norman Lamont, then chancellor of the Exchequer, and the following year he undertook the same role for Michael Howard, then home secretary. Cameron joined the media company Carlton Communications in 1994 as director of corporate affairs. He stayed at Carlton until entering Parliament in 2001 as MP for Witney, northwest of London.

      Cameron quickly attracted attention as the leading member of a new generation of Conservatives: young, moderate, and charismatic. He was widely compared to Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (Blair, Tony), who had acquired a similar reputation when he entered Parliament 18 years earlier. After just two years as an MP, Cameron was appointed to his party's “front bench”—making him a leading Conservative spokesman in the House of Commons. In 2004 Howard, by then party leader, appointed his young protégé to the post of head of policy coordination, which put Cameron in charge of preparing the Conservatives' 2005 election manifesto. The party, however, suffered a heavy defeat at the polls, provoking Howard's resignation. Cameron's self-assured speech at the party's annual conference in October 2005 transformed his reputation, and he was subsequently elected Conservative leader.

      Cameron sought to modernize the party and shed its right-wing image. He announced that economic stability and strong public services would be a priority over tax cuts in the next Conservative government. Under his leadership, the party grew in popularity and placed first in the 2006 local elections; it was the Conservatives' best showing at the polls in some 15 years.

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Universalium. 2010.

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