Craig Oliver, “Unleashing Demons, The Inside Story of Brexit,” ( Hodder and Stoughton, London 2016) £20.
The cliche that it is the winners who write the history is proving to be true in the new field of Brexit studies. So this book by Craig Oliver who was David Cameron’s “Director of Politics and Communications” at Downing Street throughout the referendum campaign, is all the more welcome. It is useful for what it says, and also for what it reveals. From a purely factual point of view Oliver tells us a lot about what actually happened which is intriguing. For example he seems in one place to let slip the point that Mrs Merkel was in fact prepared to breach her core principle of freedom of movement- something that Mrs. May”s diplomats may well make use of. More generally though Mr. Oliver’s book is interesting for what it tells us about the world view of the elite that surrounded Dave. Until the very end of the campaign they retained the faith in the testimony of their experts which they BELIEVED- and believed is the right word here, would save their political bacon. It was this belief combined with their industrial quantities of hubris which explains their humiliation. They convinced themselves that fear would trump identity. It didn’t, they lost, and as a reward for getting it wrong Mr. Oliver got a knighthood. So no tears here for him I am afraid. But his book does deserve to be widely read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, “Trump Revealed, An American journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power,” ( The Washington Post, Simon and Schuster, London, N..Y. etc )- no price because it was given to me as a Christmas present!
The current narrative of Brexit- to which I subscribe- is that the result of the Referendum in Britain was really the result of Euro- sceptical agitation by countless people over many years. Well, Brexit may have been a collaborative effort- if that is this is the right way of describing the divisions within the Leave campaign- but unquestionably Donald Trump’s victory five months later was clearly an individual effort. Trump’s victory was in a radical sense HIS victory. And since it was HIS victory his life is all the more central for understanding it. And this book is clearly where start if one wants to get any insight into Trump the man. The authors seem to have done a thorough, and relatively impartial job, which is all the more impressive when one considers that they both work for “The Washington Post.” There is a lot to learn here about the sort of man that Trump is, and by extension about the sort of President he will be. We are in for some surprises! Warmly recommended!
While my Christmas has been disrupted, I am still a resident of planet earth. I’m staying in England with my sister, in a house full of recently published books. So I thought that instead of doing one long book review I’d write a series of much shorter bits about a selection of them.
FIRST UP- “The Bad Boys of Brexit, Tales of mischief, mayhem, & guerrilla warfare in the E.U. referendum campaign ” by Arron Banks, edited by Isabel Oakeshott..published by Biteback Publishing
It really wasn’t William Hague’s day wen he insulted Arron Banks by saying he didn’t know who he was. In response Banks increased the donation he planned to give to UkIP from a hundred thousand to a million pounds. And worse, from Hague’s point of view, Banks then went to war against Britain’s membership of the EU.
“The Bad Boys of Brexit” is the story of what he did. It is quite a yarn. Banks is a millionaire in is early fifties who has made a considerable fortune in insurance, banking, and diamond mining. And consequently when he took decision to set up the LeaveE.U. organization he was able to ensure that it was a well financed and highly effective campaigning outfit which played the social media with brutal skill. Banks had nothing but contempt for most politicians, and especially for the unfortunate Dave in Downing Street. His campaign did not play by the rules, and this book is revealing about all that he and his team did – and why they did it.
Obviously this is a highly biassed account of the Referendum campaign which upended British Politics in the summer, but no one who wants to get a grip on what happened should avoid “THE BAD BOYS OF BREXIT”
Sorry no pics for now, I’ll put them in when can.
For a variety of reasons, among them, minor illness, I ‘m afraid that I haven’t been able to compose the usual Christmas article this year.
Someone was sure to make a film about the remarkable episode at Christmas 1914 when German, British, and French troops fraternised on the Western Front and even played football together. These really were heart warming events, which do indeed deserve to be remembered. It is all the greater shame then this film fails so almost completely. With the exception of one conversation and the final few seconds of the movie which are strangely touching, this is a production which never moves beyond cliché. We learn nothing. There is no insight, and very little interest here. Joyeux Noel never moves beyond shallow pacifism and Euro- waffle. A harsh judgment? Not according to a woman who saw the film along side me. She drew her car to a halt in the street outside as we were leaving and suggested that this was a “feel good” film which had in fact romanticised the war it was intended to condemn! I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but this is certainly one to avoid.
“Every technology goes through three stages: first, a crudely simple and unsatisfactory gadget; second, an enormously complicated group of gadgets designed to overcome the shortcomings of the original and achieving thereby somewhat satisfactory performance through extremely complex compromise; third, a final stage of smooth simplicity and efficient performance based on correct understanding of natural laws and proper design therefrom.”
Robert Heinlein ( 1907- 1988 ) “Space Family Stone ” ( 1952 )– not great literature but worth a look.
The popularist wave is still moving. The results from Italy show that the tsunami that began with Brexit is sweeping ashore. The urban liberal elites may not yet be submerged. But they are in danger. They badly need to reposition themselves, or else like the Bourbons and the Romanovs they will be swept away. They have now been warned. But can they hear? Can they listen? We will soon find out.