The similarities go further. Baldwin was MP for the middle-England constituency of Bewdley in Worcestershire and Cameron represents Witney in middle-England Oxfordshire. Both also led a multi-party government.
Yesterday’s European speech by David Cameron revealed a very Baldwinesque willingness to take an unforced political gamble for mainly domestic reasons, which carried serious risks for Britain’s overseas trade. In Baldwin’s case he called an early general election in 1923 over import tariffs.
Baldwin lost the 1923 election, although he did return as prime minister between 1924 and 1929 and served again later as head of the multi-party National Government.
Baldwin’s greatest mistake though came over his interpretation of the East Fulham by-election of 1933, which the Labour candidate won from the Conservatives on an anti-rearmament platform. Baldwin interpreted this to mean that the whole country was against rearming. In reality, the constituents of one London suburb on one day had preferred a younger, more charming Labour candidate over an unpopular local Conservative landlord.
Cameron seems to be showing a similar tendency in his interpretation of Ukip’s recent strong by-election performance as meaning that the whole country wants a radical shake-up of the relationship with Europe. In reality, for most voters, Europe hardly features on their list of concerns.
Will Cameron sabotage his own legacy by combining both Baldwin’s most serious errors into his one giant Euro-gamble?