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For the Record

An honest account from a prime minister who truly altered his country’s course

By David Cameron
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For the Record by David Cameron

In For the Record (2019), David Cameron gives a behind-the-scenes account of his life, career, and time as prime minister. He opens up about his upper-class upbringing, his school life, and his family. He describes how he tried to push the Conservative Party toward a more modern outlook on the world and reflects on the decisions that led to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. 

Key idea 1 of 11

David Cameron enjoyed an old-fashioned upbringing. 

Even as a young boy, David Cameron knew he was privileged. 

His upbringing and education were, by his own admission, something of an English upper-middle-class cliché. His parents had inherited money. After living briefly in Kensington, a well-to-do neighborhood in London, the family moved to a pleasant village called Peasemore, not far from the capital. Cameron’s parents were warm and loving, but nonetheless, he was sent off to boarding school at the age of seven. 

The boarding school in question, Heatherdown, was tiny and exclusive. Prince Edward was a pupil there. Cameron’s elder brother, Alex, even became friends with the prince and visited him at Windsor Castle.

The school was rather antiquated. When it was time for baths, Cameron and his fellow pupils would line up, naked, in front of a row of Victorian metal tubs. They had to wait until they heard the headmaster blow his whistle before they were permitted to climb in. The boys then bathed, enveloped in foul-smelling smoke emanating from the headmaster’s ever-present pipe. 

After Heatherdown, he – like his father and grandfather before him – attended England’s most famous school, Eton College. And there, for a time, he felt rather mediocre. Uninspired by work, he fell in with the wrong crowd. Before he knew it, he was regularly sneaking out with friends to smoke cannabis. Eton is not a normal school, and sneaking out was far from normal also: it involved renting a rowboat and rowing out to an island in the river Thames, where he and friends would roll a joint and get high.

This habit didn’t last long. Rounded up and interrogated by the headmaster during a school-wide crackdown on drug users, Cameron thought he would be expelled, as several of his friends were. 

He got away with a lesser punishment – a fine and the enforced, pointless transcription of one of Virgil’s Georgics poems in Latin. Cameron was incredibly relieved and determined to make more of an effort in life. 

It was a huge turning point. From then on, Cameron was a student transformed. Successful results at Eton led to a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics degree at Oxford. Afterward, in 1988, he found work in the Conservative Party’s research department. 

Rising through the ranks, Cameron became an adviser to the then-chancellor of the exchequer, Norman Lamont. And while he left Westminster for a brief spell in business, his desire to be in politics never went away. Elected Conservative member of Parliament (MP) for the Oxfordshire constituency of Witney in 2001, he became leader of his party just four years later, in 2005. 

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