David Cameron: The former prime minister who’s had a surprising second act | Politics News

Lord David Cameron is leading the UK’s response on the world stage as foreign secretary after his shock comeback last year.

This is not his first – or most prominent – job at the top of government, so let’s look at how he became a leading figure in the Conservative Party.

Born in 1966 in London, David William Donald Cameron was brought up in Berkshire by his stockbroker father and aristocratic mother, whose family – the Mounts of Wasing – had served in parliament for over 100 years.

From Eton to Oxford

He began his private education at Heatherdown School, whose alumni include Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, before heading to Eton, where he got top grades in his O and A-levels.

However, he did get in trouble for smoking cannabis on campus and was made to write lines in Latin as punishment.

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After school, Lord Cameron took a gap year and made his first move into the Conservative Party, becoming a researcher for his godfather, Tory MP Tim Rathbone.

Following a short stint in Hong Kong and a trip to the Soviet Union, he headed to the University of Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Brasenose College in 1985.

But while his contemporaries, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, were flexing their political muscles at the Oxford Union, he said he “hardly took part”, focusing on his studies to get a first.

He did, however, make connections with the next generation of Conservative big hitters, especially with his now infamous membership of the Bullingdon Club – an upper class dining club accused of heavy drinking and trashing restaurants among other even more controversial escapades.

They first met at Oxford, but Boris Johnson (left) and David Cameron (right) have both journeyed through Westminster together. Pic: PA

First jobs

After graduating, Lord Cameron said he was still not set on a political career, but despite this he took a job at the Conservative Research Department.

His journey continued in the party, moving up in 1991 to become an adviser in Number 10 to John Major and working alongside him during the Tories’ surprise election win in 1992.

Next, he became a special adviser to then chancellor Norman Lamont, but it was fairly short-lived, as the Black Wednesday financial crisis led to his boss’ resignation.

Come 1993, Lord Cameron headed to the Home Office to advise Michael, now Lord, Howard – whose shadow was an up-and-coming Labour politician called Tony Blair.

During this time he met his soon-to-be wife Samantha on a family holiday, as she was a friend of his sister’s. The pair married in 1996 and went on to have four children.

POLZEATH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha have a coffee outside the Galleon Beach Cafe following an early morning swim in the sea during his holiday in the small seaside resort of Polzeath on August 23, 2015 in Cornwall, England.
David Cameron met his wife, Samantha, on a family holiday. Pic: PA

Lord Cameron left Whitehall to work for a communications company, then in 1997 was selected to run for the seat of Stafford, although he failed to get elected.

In 2001, however, he was selected for the safe Tory seat of Witney in Oxfordshire, and won, beginning his Commons career.

Into the Commons

Lord Cameron’s early years in parliament saw him serve on the Home Affairs Committee, and he and his colleague George Osborne coached then Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions.

When Lord Howard took the Tory reins, he was given a junior position on the shadow frontbench as deputy shadow leader of the House, eventually becoming shadow education secretary.

But after the 2005 election, and another loss for the Conservatives, Lord Howard was out and Lord Cameron put himself forward for the leadership, winning on a platform of modernising the party.

David Cameron after being chosen as the new leader
In 2005, David Cameron beat the odds to become the Tory party’s new leader. Pic: Reuters

The next five years were spent trying to make the Tories electable again after three losses on the trot.

Lord Cameron’s more liberal approach alienated some traditional members, but also won back voters who had deserted the Conservatives for Labour.

During this time, in 2009, he and his wife lost their first child, Ivan, who died aged six after having both cerebral palsy and a rare form of epilepsy called Ohtahara syndrome.

Winning power

After the 2010 election, the Conservatives were back as the largest party, but fell short of an overall majority.

A deal was struck with the Liberal Democrats to establish the country’s first coalition government since the Second World War and Lord Cameron became PM at the age of 43 – at that time the youngest occupant of Downing Street since 1812.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
After failing to get an overall majority in 2010, David Cameron (right) did a deal with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg (left). Pic: PA

With Mr Osborne as his chancellor, the so-called Chipping Norton set was in power.

The pair focused on austerity to cut the budget deficit in the government’s coffers – leading to tightening of spending across public services.

Other era-defining policies included legalising gay marriage, with support from the Lib Dem MPs, and participating in military action in Libya.

He also granted a referendum on Scottish independence, with the cross-party Better Together campaign winning the day to see the country remain part of the United Kingdom.

Come the 2015 election, Lord Cameron and his Conservative Party secured an outright majority.

But as part of that campaign he promised a referendum on EU membership, defining his political career.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron (L) walks with Chancellor George Osborne during their visit to Marston's Brewery in Wolverhampton, central England April 1, 2015. Britain will go to the polls in a national election on May 7. REUTERS/Leon Neal/pool
Long time political allies David Cameron (left) and George Osborne (right) ran the government together. Pic: Reuters

The Brexit years

A leading voice for Remain, he pitted himself against his old rival Mr Johnson and close friend Mr Gove.

He negotiated new terms with the EU before calling the vote, but it was not enough and in June 2016, the UK voted to leave by 52% to 48%.

On the morning the result was announced, Lord Cameron announced he would step down as prime minister.

He submitted his resignation in July and come September, he decided to leave parliament altogether.

Britain's outgoing Prime Minister, David Cameron, accompanied by his wife Samantha, daughters Nancy (C) and Florence and son Arthur, speaks before leaving number 10 Downing Street, on his last day in office as Prime Minister, in central London, Britain July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
The Camerons say goodbye to the world’s media after he resigned as prime minister. Pic: Reuters

Cameron’s comeback

After his exit, Lord Cameron took on a number of charity and private sector roles, but got into hot water as an adviser for Greensill Capital, being accused of lobbying ministers on their behalf.

While most assumed his time in Westminster was over, he shocked onlookers in 2023 when he was appointed foreign secretary by Rishi Sunak.

Mr Sunak made him a peer, rather aptly becoming Baron Cameron of Chipping Norton.

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Watch the reaction as David Cameron walked up Downing Street during Rishi Sunak’s last reshuffle

Since his appointment, which came just weeks after the 7 October attacks in Israel, he has spent most of his time abroad, as the UK tries to make its voice heard over the conflicts in both Ukraine and Gaza.


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