We're ALL political now thanks to David Cameron and Brexit, says STEPHEN POLLARD

Remember when David Cameron was the shiny fresh-faced hope of the Conservatives? And when Labour was led by a mainstream politician like Gordon Brown? But there has been a theme running through many of these round-ups – that we should be pleased to see the back of the 2010s. 

If you follow the received wisdom, this has been a decade that went from bad to worse: from an unloved Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition to the chaos ushered in by the Brexit referendum and then the useless Mrs May. 

As usual, the received wisdom is wrong. 

Far from being a decade to forget, it has been a triumphant vindication of British democracy. 

After both the 2010 and 2017 elections we had hung parliaments. 


Westminster will have another exciting year (Image: Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty)

Both times our system found a way to cope and to weather the storms that events threw at it. 

In two major referendums, on Scottish independence in 2014 and then Brexit in 2016, the system worked. 

Fundamental issues that the existing party structure was not coping properly with were handed over to the people. 

The people’s voice was heard and then acted upon. 

Yes, there have been twists and turns. 

2016 referendum

Turnout in the referendum of 2016 was a relatively high 72.2 percent (Image: GETTY)

At times it looked as though the system might collapse – especially as the 2017-2019 parliament repeatedly blocked implementation of the Brexit referendum result. 

But on December 12, equilibrium was restored and the system allowed the British people to have their say.

Labour’s extremist leader was given his marching orders and a new Parliament was returned with a clear mandate to deliver Brexit. 

The coming decade will see a huge refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster – and it’s tempting to see a parallel with the renewal of popular participatory democracy. 

Cast your mind back to 2010. 

With no clear election winner, the prospect of stable government seemed remote. 

But the Lib Dems put the national interest first and, having agreed to join a coalition, stuck to it for five years. 

That stability allowed George Osborne the political space to start restoring the nation’s finances. 

But the running sore of our relationship with the EU was ever-present. 

It’s fashionable now to attack Mr Cameron for pledging a referendum on our membership if he won the 2015 election. 

Boris Johnson and David Cameron

The present and the past Prime Minister (Image: Getty)

But not only did he honour that pledge – itself remarkable – it was also the right thing to hand the question over to the people. 

Hindsight (an underrated tool) shows how beneficial the referendum has been. 

It has rekindled the public’s interest and – even more importantly – participation in politics. 

Having a direct say in a referendum, where every vote matters, has had a knock-on effect on general elections. 

The nadir of recent votes was 2001, when turnout was just 59.4 percent. 

But turnout in the referendum of 2016 was a relatively high 72.2 percent. 

And in the following year’s election it was 68.8 percent. 

It was almost as high this month at 67.2 percent, despite it being held on a freezing, wet December day. 

The hung parliament of 2017-2019 will rightly be remembered as appalling, as opposition leaders and backbenchers of all parties spent their time doing their level best to frustrate and ignore the referendum result. 

It was hardly surprising that many observers believed this demonstrated a crisis in our democracy. 

For all but two years of the decade, no one party had a majority in parliament – and MPs’ behaviour after the 2017 election showed how they could bring governance to a halt. 

But this month’s election changed everything. 

Looking back, we can see that voters were chomping at the bit to deliver P45s to MPs who had been treating them with contempt. 

Far from deciding to walk away from politics, as much of the reporting in the run-up to the election suggested, voters turned out in droves to participate. 

Politics succeeds when politicians deliver concrete achievements and focus on the needs of ordinary voters. 

There are strong signs that Boris Johnson understands this and wants to harness the engagement we have seen since the referendum in 2016. 

His entire election campaign, after all, was based on the simple premises of getting Brexit done and delivering decent public services. 

Now, with a more buoyant spirit, let’s see what the New Year brings. 

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