On the morning of Friday 24 June David Cameron appeared in front of No. 10 Downing Street to effectively tender his resignation, following the result of the EU in/out referendum. He argued that he had to go because he had tied his colours firmly to the Remain camp’s mast and, in his opinion, he was unable to provide the leadership needed to negotiate the UK’s departure from the EU.
The problem with his decision to resign his premiership is that it unnerved already jittery markets resulting in stock market losses and the weakening of sterling. The markets, as Team Remain, fully expected that the people would vote to remain inside the EU; when it became clear that the Leavers had won the markets fell. The markets respond well to confident leadership and this could have been provided if Cameron had stayed in post rather than simply walking away from the everything.
Almost a week on from the result and we have seen the markets and sterling starting to rally, but there is still nervousness out there. The missing element in this period, between the result and the actual departure from Europe, is strong leadership. Cameron has effectively abandoned his ship leaving the country without a captain. And, if I can squeeze in one more nautical analogy, we need someone to help us steer through the turbulent waters that lie ahead.
Whatever his reasons for announcing his departure the reality is that he has made it much more difficult for his successor to negotiate with the EU and he has unsettled the markets. He could, and should, have remained in post to invoke Article 50 and then have remained as PM until negotiations had been finalised. This may not have stopped some of the stock market losses and the weakening of sterling, but the markets respond far better to certainty and decisive action than they do to doubt and confusion.
Instead of being able to leave Downing Street with his head held high, having done the best he can for the country that he ‘loves’ he will simply slip away into the shadows, with his reputation irreparably damaged.