david cameron.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ANDY RAIN

When David Cameron stood before Number 10 Downing Street on Friday to announce his resignation after losing the referendum on Britain's place in the European Union, his voice was full of emotion.

"I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it, and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed," he said, his voice cracking.

Unfortunately, the country did not return the love, with Cameron experiencing what must be one of the greatest falls from grace in British politics when his EU gamble failed.

"The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected," he said.

He said he had confronted difficult decisions, not ducked them, pointing to going into a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in the previous parliament, seeing off the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and making good on his promise to allow the vote on EU membership.

"I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel, head, heart and soul. I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear in my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union," he said.

But despite delivering the first Conservative majority government in over two decades and presiding over an economic recovery, Cameron's defeat in the EU referendum could wipe out this legacy.

Cameron, 48, he son of a stockbroker father and a magistrate mother, was educated at the elite private school Eton and at Oxford University.

The BBC once described him as "straight out of the establishment topdrawer."

Before moving into the prime minister's residence, close toparliament in London's Westminster, Cameron had lived with his wifeSam and their three children in the city's trendy Notting Hill areaand in rural Oxfordshire to the west of London.

The couple's eldest child died in February 2009 aged 6. He hadsuffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy.

Cameron and "Sam Cam" are part of the "Chipping Norton set," a groupof affluent and influential people living near the Oxfordshire town.

Other members of the "set" include their friends Jeremy Clarkson, thesacked presenter of BBC's Top Gear motoring programme; RebeccaBrooks, the controversial former editor of the Sun tabloid newspaper;and Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whoowns the Sun, the Times and Sky Television.

Cameron is seen by critics as a "career politician," like former Labour leader Ed Miliband. He began working as a Conservative partyresearcher in 1988, spending time in the offices of prime ministerJohn Major, the home secretary and the chancellor.

After seven years in public relations with the television arm ofCarlton Communications, Cameron was first elected to parliament in2001, rising to party leader in 2005.

But Cameron's woes within the Conservative party started when he entered the coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. Many felt their partner's influence watered down Conservative policy. Social conservatives were appalled when he pushed through gay marriage in 2013, and more of his party colleagues voted against the bill than for it. Grumblings also started among grass roots campaigners that he was not conservative enough, with some defecting to the growing UK Independence Party.

But it was Europe that once again led to open revolt, with many senior figures campaigning directly against him. Cameron is now the third Conservative prime minister in modern times to stumble over Europe, after Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

He will now go down in history as the prime minster who took Britain out of Europe, and who knows what other damage this will do to the EU. And with open calls from Scottish and Irish nationalists for referendums on leaving the United Kingdom, he may also be the British prime minister who dismantled Britain.

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