DAVID Cameron, we are told, is so “bored sh**less” with his life on Civvy Street that he is yearning for a return to frontline politics, with his former adviser Steve Hilton touting him at the weekend as the UK’s “best hope” should those fabled no-confidence letters materialise and Prime Minister Theresa May is overthrown.

There may be some kind of twisted logic to the idea that Mr Cameron should be forced back to clean up a political mess that is pretty much entirely of his making, but woe betide us if he does. For while Labour grandee Peter Mandelson famously said that history would remember Mr Cameron “simply as the prime minister who took us out of the EU”, the legacy of another of the former member for Witney’s bright ideas - austerity - shows just how unfit for office he really is.

Dreamed up by Mr Cameron and fellow Bullingdon Boy George Osborne - who, inexplicably, has reinvented himself as the Tory-bashing newspaper editor par excellence - austerity was announced in 2009 as the antidote to the Labour Party’s preceding “age of irresponsibility”. With the country brought low by unscrupulous bankers and misguided borrowers - not to mention profligate Labour politicians - the time had apparently come for us all to tighten our belts for the good of the nation.

Yet while Mr Osborne’s “we’re all in this together” mantra rang hollow right from the off, the extent to which austerity has ravaged the poor while allowing the rich to amble along just fine was last week laid bare in a damning report from the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston. Indeed, thanks to austerity measures such as the introduction of what Mr Alston termed “Universal Discredit”, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, with the poor, women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, single parents, and people with disabilities most severely affected. Not only is this shameful in a nation that boasts the world’s fifth largest economy but, as Mr Alston said, it is “patently unjust and contrary to British values”.

Nor can Scotland claim the moral high ground. Though the UN report noted that we have the lowest poverty rates of any UK nation, Scottish Government figures show that the number of people living in relative poverty north of the Border has increased by 16 per cent since the advent of austerity, from 860,000 in 2007/08 to a million in 2017/18, 230,000 of whom are children. And while the Alston report praised measures such as the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan and said its nascent benefits agency is “guided by the principles of dignity and social security as a human right”, the author stressed that accountability has not been written into the system while no mechanism is in place to ensure the most vulnerable can access what assistance is available to them.

When he announced his age of austerity David Cameron said the intention was to show that “fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with a social conscience”. It is about as far from a ringing endorsement as you can get that Mr Alston has found the exact opposite to be the case, with his report highlighting that “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instil discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the wellbeing of those at the lowest levels of British society”. Whether or not the policy has been “fiscally responsible”, meanwhile, remains moot.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, Warwick University economics professor Thiemo Fetzer published a paper earlier this year that drew a direct link between austerity and Brexit, with the deep cuts to welfare from 2010 onwards thought to be responsible for pushing many in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities into the arms of UKIP and the vote-Leave camp. Sold on the promise of a new dawn of Great British prosperity, those voters - like the rest of us - are now forced to live in a country so economically damaged that the Financial Times reckons the average household is £870 a year worse off than it was before the vote. What that figure will be once we make our final, shambolic exit from the European Union is anyone’s guess, though we can all rest assured that it is highly unlikely to be heading south.

Given his role in getting us into this mess, the idea that Mr Cameron is our best hope for getting out of it is far-fetched in the extreme. Whether he meant to or not, our former prime minister inflicted great misery on the UK the day he declared a new age of austerity, with his Brexit gamble only serving to compound the effect.

The Tory Party under Theresa May may be intent on ripping itself – and the country – apart right now, but Mr Cameron is not the answer. Austerity and Brexit are indefensible; allowing him to heap yet more misery on the people of the UK would be utterly unforgivable.