TV review: The Cameron Years, BBC One
- Brian Donaldson
- 19 September 2019
Soft-pedalling two-part look at the former Tory PM and his tarnished legacy
As slick as the man in its title, The Cameron Years is a flinching exploration of the Hug-a-Hoodie prime minister. Using the political trajectory of Tony Blair as his template, David Cameron pushed his way through the Conservative ranks to be the fresh face of a party that was dead on its feet from one punishing election defeat after another.
A story of two halves (equal marriage, the Independence referendum, Libya, and the coalition government occupies the second hour), part one of The Cameron Years zeroes in on the calamity of his decision to hold a vote on EU membership and the reverberations and uncertainties that are still far from resolved today. Naturally, he stops short of a full apology but talks of 'regrets' and 'mistakes' while most observers here nail him on caving in to the calls for a referendum from Euro-sceptic Tories.
Looking back to the days before 23 June 2016, it almost seems like a calmer, gentler time for British politics despite the buzzword which plagued Cameron's tenure was not 'Brexit' but 'austerity'. The shadow of his Bullingdon buddy Boris looms large here too, though Michael Gove makes a fair stab as the character most likely to fatally undermine his old pal.
The biggest eye-opener of this documentary is that George Osborne appears to have a relatively wicked sense of humour, smearing scorn over his LibDem coalition partners (easy target maybe, but still). This is one of the few moments of levity across the two hours: it's hard to chuckle too hard now at the footage of our current PM at his most bumbling. Though it's almost matched by the memory of Cameron's inner circle having dubbed the more veteran members of the Tory party membership as 'swivelled-eye loons' before cutting straight to Ann Widdecombe for her reaction which pretty much confirms the hypothesis.
Ultimately, this is an engrossing if largely toothless account of post-New Labour governance. There are no mentions of him leaving his daughter in the boozer or his student encounter with a deepthroating dead pig, instead a series of talking heads and reams of TV news footage tell a story as grey as his own personality (even if he keeps insisting how passionate and energised he is). There's no Jeremy Paxman or Eddie Mair around to ragdoll him into confessing his sins. Instead The Cameron Years, with its heavy focus on the unchallenged opinions of the man at its centre, comes over like a carefully stage-managed and extended PR puff.
Episodes watched: 2 of 2
The Cameron Years is on BBC One, Thursday 19 & 26 September, 9pm.