by Joseph Herbert
The swine-lover, the social reformer, the political gambler. How David Cameron’s legacy will endure at the University of Stirling is hard to tell, but on Monday he bowed out of his constituency seat in Witney for good.
It was a lengthy 15-year period that the Oxford graduate turned media master held the seat in Oxfordshire – but time is now up for the former PM as he paves the way for Theresa May to cement her somewhat controversial plans.
Many forget that one of Cameron’s first vital positions within the Conservative Party was as shadow education minister. Here he rose in popularity by changing the image of the Conservative Party from the stale, cranky old-boys club image that it once was, into the modern one-nation brand that it is today.
Previous to that role is one which that is rarely talked about – his role as a junior minister in Michael Howard’s shadow cabinet, as head of policy co-ordination. If anything was going to tantalize a Cameronite on what to expect from his premiership, apart from his questionable love of Bob Dylan, it should have been this interesting role. This is where he set about re-jigging the way in which policy was formulated.
Some may not know that our university is one of only two institutions in the UK that has a centre dedicated to Behavioral Science in Economics.
Jargon aside, the government helps you make better decisions without you consciously acknowledging the so-called nudge. Here at our university, we have some of the best Behavioral Economists offering research-driven masters courses that have their roots in the same principles that led Mr Cameron to innovate with Behavioral Science as an alley in public policy.
Yet many will choose to remember the infamous accusations regarding dead livestock, and others will never forget the referendum that will lead a divided Britain out of Europe.
Nevertheless, setting up the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) in Westminster – also known colloquially as the ‘Nudge Unit’ – is something that will certainly live on at the University of Stirling.
Moreover, the BIT’s policy tweaks have been innovative and exciting.
For example, many students who may have recently taken their driving test will have had an option to tick the organ donation box when collecting the sacred purple license. This gentle nudge has seen the organ donor register increase year on year and whilst the nudge cannot take all the credit, it has certainly nudged many into ticking that box that they otherwise would never have got round to doing. This is the essence of soft-nudging, which is what the BIT, commissioned by Cameron, has been doing across the public sector since 2010.
So, if you ever ponder what legacy the Bullingdon Boy Cameron leaves behind, remember this: it is he to blame for the fruit being at eye-level instead of the Mars bars; it is him amongst many others to thank for the social reform that has helped introduced gay marriage; it is he who helped formulate the Edinburgh agreement giving way to the independence referendum – but it was he also he who gambled with public opinion one too many times.
Bye Bye Dave.