David Cameron spoke of his regret over the path the country has taken since the EU referendum during an interview with ITV last night.
The former prime minister said: “If you’re asking me; do I have regrets? Yes. Am I sorry about the state the country’s got into? Yes. Do I feel I have some responsibility for that? Yes. It was my referendum, my campaign, my decision to try and renegotiate. And I accept all of those things and people, including those watching this programme, will have to decide how much blame to put on me.”
The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, tweeted that the “most revealing part” of the interview was when Cameron “finally” accepted “he is at least in part to blame for the nation’s Brexit mess, but he insists others then deepened it: namely May, then Johnson and the ERG”.
Cameron attempted to settle scores during the televised grilling. He said that Boris Johnson believed that the Leave campaign would be defeated in the Brexit referendum campaign. “Minutes before he went out to explain why he was going to be on the side of Brexit, he sent me a text saying, ‘Brexit will be crushed like a toad under the harrow’,” Cameron said.
He then turned to Michael Gove, another man he had criticised in his memoir, saying that during the Brexit campaign, “he went from this liberal, modern, compassionate Conservative to something quite different”.
Speaking of Gove and Johnson as a pair, he said: “There was some things that happened in the campaign and things that Michael and Boris signed up to that I found deeply depressing because I didn’t think it was who they were.”
He was also asked about his controversial austerity cuts and said he might have timed them differently. “There is a case for saying that some of the changes we had to make in year two, in year three, in year four – it might have been better if we did a little bit more a bit earlier.
“When you have that sort of window of permission from the public, I felt after the 2010 election, you know, we’d fought an election, rather untraditionally, saying; ‘If you elect us, we’re going to make cuts and people will look back at this period and there’ll be great big arguments about it.”
At the end of the programme, he ruled out a return to frontline politics, saying: “No… I love this country. I care passionately about what happens. But I think the idea of going back to frontline politics is not going to happen, nor should it.”
Cameron’s interviewer, Tom Bradby, reflected afterwards that “if there is one takeaway from the interview though, it is surely that David Cameron is very, very sorry”. He added: “Cameron uses ‘regret’ and ‘failure’ more than I can recall any former leader ever doing in any period after their departure from power, and by a country mile.”
Writing for The Independent, Tom Peck compared the Tory to another haunted former prime minister. “Cameron has never looked and sounded more like the heir to Blair. Brexit is his Iraq,” he wrote.