I wonder what David Cameron is doing today,” tweeted Anneka Rice on Tuesday. “Cotswold pub lunch? Golf?” The TV and radio presenter is not principally known for her political comment, but it was clear, more than 30,000 likes and 5,000 retweets later, that she had captured something of the public mood. As his successor as prime minister endured an unprecedented drubbing in parliament with the rejection of her deal with the EU, where was the man who had set the Brexit boulder careering downhill in the first place?
The answer came the following morning, when Cameron, wearing shorts and warmly tanned from a recent family holiday at a £1,728-a-night resort in Costa Rica, was stopped by reporters on the doorstep of his Notting Hill home.
No, he said, he didn’t regret calling the referendum, though he did regret losing it. “And obviously regret the difficulties and the problems we’ve been having trying to implement the result.” And off he went for his morning jog, his security car trailing behind him.
Anger at Cameron has been widespread since the referendum, as underlined by the response to actor Danny Dyer’s dismissal of him last summer as a “twat” who had scuttled off to Europe “with his trotters up”.
But it has arguably only deepened as the Brexit crisis unfolded, with even the Washington Post this week pointing out that 58% of Britons have a negative opinion of the former PM, and noting his lack of any sheepishness about his role. His now notorious tweet of May 2015, predicting “stability and strong government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband”, has been retweeted ironically more than 20,000 times, and this week was even posted to a billboard in north London by a campaign group calling itself Led By Donkeys.
Cameron had promised that he would stay on as prime minister to implement the referendum result, but less than three months later, having stood down as PM, he was gone from parliament as well, saying he did not want to be a “distraction” to Theresa May.
His principal pastime, in the 16 months since, has been to work on his £800,000 memoirs, as yet untitled and reportedly already topping more than 400,000 words, having purchased a £25,000 designer shed last year in which to put down his thoughts. (He has since bought another one, and a holiday house – to add to his London and Cotswolds homes – in Cornwall.)
The book, heavily predicted to round on former friend Michael Gove for backing Brexit, is now more than three-quarters written, he reportedly said in December, “but there’s no great hurry – I want to get it right”. Events have undoubtedly played a part in pushing back its original publication date last year; it is now pencilled in for September and friends say he is determined to stick to schedule, but a delay in article 50 could see it set back further.
Tapping out his memories, however, has left the chillaxing former PM with plenty of time on his hands – and famously “bored shitless”, according to a friend. He knocked back rumours in November that he was hankering for a return to frontline politics, perhaps as foreign secretary, though he was careful to let it be known he had not ruled out a role in public service in future.
But it is notable that, in contrast to his former political ally George Osborne, who edits the Evening Standard full-time as well as his several other roles, and his former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, now head of global affairs at Facebook, Cameron has been happy so far to pursue a lower-profile portfolio career of charitable positions, business roles and lucrative speaking engagements.
He is president of Alzheimer’s Research UK and chairman of the National Citizen Service, a skills programme for teenagers, for which he is unpaid – his reported £120,000 an hour fee at the Washington Speakers Bureau goes some way to covering his expenses. With John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, he will co-chair an initiative to set up protected marine areas.
Last month it was confirmed that the parliamentary authorities had cleared Cameron to lead a new £750m UK-China investment fund, whose backers include Lord Chadlington, a Tory peer and close friend of the former PM.