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New Rules to Control Ex-Prime Ministers

There is now a long shadow over David Cameron's career - which is why we must have new rules to control ex-Prime Ministers, writes the former Tory leader's biographer ANTHONY SELDON.

David Cameron has many qualities: he is quite extraordinarily bright, was an exceptional chair of meetings, fought bravely for issues in which he believed such as gay marriage, and helped rebuild the country after the global financial crisis of 2008–09.

But he could be cavalier in his words, as when he blurted out the Queen's sentiments after the Scottish referendum result ('she purred down the line'); could be casual and cliquey in his appointments, and was too ready to be taken in by plausible figures who flattered him. He never really understood that in politics a prime minister cannot have personal friends: for example, he assumed that his friendship with Michael Gove would be more important than Gove's beliefs on the EU, and so he felt betrayed by him — and still feels betrayed — when Gove came out in favour of Brexit.

Cameron's propensity to be naïve was checked by the No 10 machine when he was PM. Outside, he has been operating in a no man's land with an apparent recklessness that looks to cast a long shadow over his reputation. The Government announcement of an independent review into the conduct of Cameron's efforts to lobby ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital, the collapsed finance company he advised and in which he held significant share options, will come as a bitter blow. Not the least of his discomfort will be the knowledge that the review was instigated by Boris Johnson — who was ultimately responsible for Cameron's departure from Downing Street in the wake of the EU referendum in June 2016. For Cameron, as for his family and friends, it is humiliation piled upon humiliation.

He is the figure who, after the scandal of parliamentary expenses in 2008-09, promised the nation that as PM he was going to clean up politics once and for all. And when he decided to quit as an MP, he told the world that he was going to be committed to good causes, and conduct his life in an exemplary way. I'm sure that he meant it when he uttered those high hopes. But how miserably he has failed to realise the expectations that his words aroused.

Prime ministers have a duty when they are in power to conduct themselves in a way that is beyond reproach. Holding the top office is an enormous honour. Only 53 men and two women have served as PM since the office was created 300 years ago this month.