Following the “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would be stepping down following a transition period of a few months. He expects to have a new leader announced in October before the Conservative party’s conference. Whether he intends to step down or not, the Brexit loss meant that he would have to announce his resignation.
For most Americans who don’t know a ton about the way a parliamentary Democracy works, his resignation sounded definitive. The reality is that this is a purely political move to buy himself time. If he didn’t announce his resignation, he would have media outlets, UK citizens, and members of his own party urging him to do so. By resigning, he puts all of those criticisms and political embarrassments behind him. Now, he’ll have to deal with the repercussions of being on the wrong side of the vote, but at least he’ll be doing so as an alleged lame duck.
This gives him the freedom to position himself properly regardless of how the exit from the European Union plays out for Great Britain over the next few months. If the transition simply suffers a short-term economic hit on the country but allows them to recover over the next few months, he’ll be able to say that he beat expectations and stabilized the country following its most important political move in decades. If things go south, he’ll be able to say, “I tried to warn you.”
In both scenarios, he’ll be able to declare why it’s no longer in the best interests of the country for him to step down. If things are going well, he’ll be able to say that achieving success in spite of the break from the EU means that he shouldn’t rock the boat by resigning. If things go poorly, he’ll say that the nation is ill-equipped to handle self-inflicted wounds from the vote; in such a scenario, he’ll be the guy who was right all along as well as being the stability that the country needs. If things go badly, he’ll say that now is not the time for him to step down because the challenges caused by the results of the referendum requires a steady, consistent hand to fix it.
While I don’t know for sure that he won’t resign, I do know that nothing is set in stone until he actually steps down. That’s how Cameron works. Whatever his intentions are, announcing his resignation was the natural next step following his Brexit failure. It’s not a true resignation. It allows him to test the winds and follow the results.
He may or may not step down in the near future, but he definitely didn’t step down the day after Brexit. Calling it a “resignation” doesn’t mean that he’ll follow through with his promise. Saying one thing and doing another is part of Cameron’s nature.