Daniel Hannan: Cameron maligns Brexiteers because he misunderstands them

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Everyone agrees that David Cameron made a terrible blunder when he called the referendum. Everyone, that is, except the country at large.

Journalists and politicians, civil servants and diplomats, subscribers to the Economist and the Financial Times, half-clever readers who get their opinions downstream from the Davos schmoozefest – all these people tell each other that the Brexit referendum was the worst mistake any British leader has made since the loss of the Americas. All forget how widespread the desire for a referendum was in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats, who now say that Cameron’s decision was “unforgiveable”, were demanding an In/Out referendum long before he was. Jo Swinson, along with the rest, told us as long ago as 2008 that only “a referendum on the major issue of in or out of Europe” would do. By 2013, plenty of Labour and Conservative MPs were taking the same line, largely in response to pressure from their constituents. There is no dishonour here: it is how a democracy is supposed to work.

Oddly, Cameron appears to have adopted the world-view of his critics. He defends his decision to call a referendum, but he does so…well, defensively. The line he takes in his memoirs is, in effect, that the referendum was forced on him by a combination of public demand and EU inflexibility. He had no choice but to go to the country, though he bitterly regrets the result. He reveals that he phoned EU leaders, as well as Barack Obama, to apologise for the way people voted. He still beats himself up about the whole thing.

For what it’s worth, I have always felt the former Prime Minister gets a tough rap. We forget the state the country was in when he took over: Gordon Brown had left us with a higher deficit than Greece’s. Cameron brought us back from the brink calmly and unfussily. Since stepping down, he has behaved with dignity – unlike, it must be said, every other living former Prime Minister. True, the timing of his memoirs is unfortunate, but that is hardly his fault: Brexit was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

One thing, though, leaps out of Cameron’s book. He never really got Euroscepticism or Eurosceptics. He sees opposition to European amalgamation as an eccentricity verging on a mild mental disorder. The idea that it might matter to people more than, say, party loyalty leaves him genuinely nonplussed: “Michael [Gove] had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends and supporters,” he writes, in unfeigned bewilderment.

Gove did indeed pay a high price, because he was convinced that Britain would be better off outside the EU. He acted, in other words, from principle. But Cameron can’t understand how anyone could feel that way, and so puts it down to some sort of character flaw.

Similarly, he writes of the present Prime Minister: “Boris had become fixated on whether we could pass legislation that said UK law was ultimately supreme over EU law.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to him that this question – the essence of what it means to be an independent country – might genuinely matter. Johnson, we are invited to assume, cannot truly have cared about what Cameron describes as the “bugbear of the most evangelical Eurosceptics”. The only explanation for his behaviour, the former leader implies, is careerism.

In fact, Johnson – a long-standing critic of Euro-federalism – was tortured by the sovereignty question. I know, because I spent much of 2015 trying to persuade him to come out for Leave. Never once did he give any indication that he was weighing up which side would win. On the contrary, he kept coming back to the issue of legal primacy. If we could settle that then, as far as he was concerned, we could put up with the rest. But if we couldn’t, then staying in the EU would mean, over time, becoming a European province.

I am pretty sure that, if Cameron had been able to address this issue – the issue that had been the sticking point for Tony Benn, Enoch Powell, Hugh Gaitskell and the other Eurosceptic Long Marchers – he would have won the support, not just of Johnson and Gove, but of the majority of the electorate. But he could never see the problem. He couldn’t – and he still can’t – believe that anyone is genuinely bothered by what he sees as an absurd and abstruse abstraction. No wonder he feels hurt.

Sadly, in his annoyance, he reruns the referendum campaign, angrily accusing the other side of dishonesty. And here, I’m afraid, he diminishes himself. After all, we can all remember that, right up until February 2016, he was solemnly declaring that, if he didn’t get the reforms he wanted, he would recommend a Leave vote. Now he says that will always blame himself for the “enormity” of withdrawal. At least he uses that word correctly, to mean dreadfulness rather than enormousness. But how are we to square that maudlin statement with his previous assurances that he would lead us out if he couldn’t tweak our membership terms? One of the two statements must be untrue.

We all have self-serving biases, of course. We all give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When Cameron looks back at his previous promises, he doubtless sees them, not as lies, but as part of a standard political campaign. Here, for example, is how he explains his decision to resign as Prime Minister: “Why had I promised I would stay on if we lost? If I had admitted that there was any chance of my stepping down if remain lost, I would have jeopardised the referendum entirely.”

To which I say, “fair enough”. There is a difference between putting the best spin on your intentions during a campaign and calculated mendacity. The word “lie” should, in my view, be reserved for bigger offences than Cameron’s. It’s just that, with such a record, he should think twice before using the word “lie” about what was very obviously an honest mistake in one interview by Penny Mordaunt about whether Britain could veto Turkish accession.

More significant is the question of why he didn’t manage to get a better deal from the EU. This is the question that Remainers almost invariably avoid.

Had Cameron come back with any retrieval of power or, indeed, with a sovereignty amendment of the sort that Gove and Johnson had wanted, he would have won the referendum. But the EU was readier to lose its second financial contributor than to allow any diminution of its federal aspirations.

That inflexibility was the proximate cause of Brexit. It helps explain why, after the vote, it proved so hard for the two sides to agree on a common-market-not-common-government type of association. It remains the biggest barrier to a deal. Yet, bizarrely, it is hardly ever discussed. Even now, many Remainers would rather rail against the other side than face up to the reality of what the EU is turning into. The electorate as a whole, though, knows better.

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Establishment Remainers are doing their best to block Brexit, but any further delay would be totally unacceptable

Every day I watch, listen and read with disbelief the propaganda that is spouted by a Remain-orientated Establishment. The Biased Broadcasting Company is one of the worst offenders. Having worked with the BBC for nine years as a journalist, I find it its treatment of Brexit truly shocking.

The trashing of our democracy, by those who can’t even spell the word, now sees the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament in the Supreme Court. You really could not make this up.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats vote to drop Brexit altogether and former Prime Minister David Cameron emerges from his caravan to vent his spleen on all those who dared to stand up for their country.

I recall Michael Gove’s dilemma well. Torn between friendship and country, he chose the latter. It was the right choice and, if the friendship had been genuine, his courageous decision would have had no effect.

I also recall the disastrous Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which was sold as the glue to hold two parties together during challenging economic times. It was no such thing. It simply guaranteed three ambitious, young men the chance to maintain power for five years.

Pride comes before a fall, and we are now paying a weighty price as Opposition parties team up to stop a general election.

As the Brexit debate rages on and on, faith in politicians and politics continues to sink into the gutter. The rhetoric dances between intolerant and vile, fuelled by Project Fear 1 to 10, an exercise that spreads only confusion, doubt and despair.

In the EU, bureaucrats and politicians continue to make their disdain for the UK and our referendum clear. Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, attending the Liberal Democrat conference, now calls for an European Empire!

He’s only reiterating what we already knew, but, still, it is truly sobering to be reminded of this utopian nightmare that awaits us if we fail to leave.

No one in their right mind can honestly believe that such an empire is the solution to the world’s problems. Rather than bring Europe together, it would tear it apart, and is.

There is nothing more significant, more important and more necessary than a sovereign nation. Losing control of its laws, borders and money diminishes it to nothing more than a vassal state. Is this really what the likes of David Cameron et al want?

In Boris Johnson, we now at last have a leader. Leading is not for the faint-hearted, or for those who attempt to please everyone, as did both his predecessors.

He had no choice but to remove the whip from 21 of my colleagues, as they knowingly handed over executive control of Brexit, via a biased Speaker, to a Marxist and other Opposition parties hell-bent on thwarting the democratic will of 17.4 million people.

Mr Johnson’s determination to see us leave the EU on 31st October is both admirable and honourable.

Any more delay is totally unacceptable and will lead to further chaos and division.

I have complete faith in our people and country to weather any no-deal blip, because a prosperous future is there to grab and we must take it.

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David Cameron says controversial austerity measures ‘should have been introduced harder and faster’

David Cameron said, far from regretting the years of austerity he oversaw as prime minister, he wished he had imposed more cuts and faster when he took office.

In extracts from his memoirs, published in The Times, Mr Cameron said critics’ response to widespread cuts to public spending were “pretty hysterical” and akin to if “we had reinstated the workhouse”.

He said that, given the “hatred” his policy received, he wished he had started earlier and cut deeper to balance the books faster, adding: “We might as well have ripped the plaster off.”

His comments have drawn criticism from opposition MPs who accused him of being oblivious to the harm and suffering caused by the austerity measures, which have since been accused of being in breach of human rights.

‘We didn’t cut enough’

During Mr Cameron’s government, he introduced sweeping cuts to the majority of state spending which hit welfare, justice and local government particularly hard.

In his book For the Record, due to be published on Thursday, Mr Cameron said his first priority after becoming prime minister in 2010 was to tackle the deficit and, describing himself as a “pragmatist rather than an ideologue”, he said he felt his had to do his “duty” as leader.

“In 2010 there was absolutely no doubt what that was: to rescue the economy,” he wrote. “It doesn’t require a degree in economics to appreciate that if you keep spending faster than the economy grows, and faster than tax revenue grows, eventually you will be in trouble.”

He went on: “Did we cut too much? My assessment now is that we probably didn’t cut enough. We could have done more, even more quickly, as smaller countries like Ireland had done successfully, to get Britain back in the black and then get the economy moving.

“Those who were opposed to austerity were going to be opposed – and pretty hysterically – to whatever we did.

Cameron ‘oblivious to suffering’

Former Prime Minister David Cameron praised the NHS for the care he received before his son died, aged, six
Former Prime Minister David Cameron is releasing his memoirs detailing his time in Downing Street (Photo: PA)

“Given all the hype and hostility and, yes, sometimes hatred, we might has well have ripped the plaster off with more cuts early on. We should have taken advantage of the window of public support for cuts when it was open.”

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What we know from David Cameron’s memoirs

Mr Cameron praised the work of his then chancellor George Osborne, saying he “stuck to his guns” despite being under “enormous” pressure.

“The airwaves were thick with hyperbole from interest groups. we were cutting just £1 in every £100 spent, but you’d think we had reinstated the workhouse,” he wrote.

He said he and Mr Osborne were “vindicated” when, three years into government, there were record employment figures which, he said, saw the economy “going gangbusters”.

But John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow Chancellor, said his comments expose the former prime minister’s privilege and lack of understanding of how his economic policies impacted people.

David Cameron, with then Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, introduces Ken Clarke (R) to his economic team at Portcullis House on January 19, 2009 (Photo: Getty Images)

Austerity breached human rights

“Cameron clearly has no idea of the scale of human suffering his austerity cuts inflicted on our communities,” he said in a statement.

“This confirms how cut off this privileged class of Tories are from the everyday lives of our people.”

A report, published by the UN poverty envoy last year, concluded that the UK Government had inflicted “great misery” through “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies.

Philip Alston, a human rights lawyer, said in the damning report that UK “poverty is a political choice” and said austerity was in breach of UN human rights relating to women, children, disabled people and economic and social rights

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The hypocritical Lib Dems want to ignore the result of the Brexit referendum they demanded a decade ago

The Liberal Democrats have devoted a great deal of time at their party conference to attacking my predecessor as Witney MP, David Cameron, over his decision to call the EU referendum. These attacks are an attempt to sanitise their own role in campaigning for – and to airbrush their contribution to securing – that very referendum.

Let’s get some of the basics clear first. The Conservative manifesto promise to hold an in/out referendum was endorsed by the British people in 2015, being crucial to the party’s majority at that year’s general election. The very fact that the British public voted to Leave a year later demonstrates how wide and deep was discontent in Britain at the country’s EU membership, at least without fundamental reform. Ever since the advent of the euro, and the further integration required to sustain it, Britain and the EU were on different paths requiring at the very least a fundamentally reformed relationship. Cameron is correct that a referendum was, at some point, probably inevitable in any event.

We should not forget: the referendum was not called by Cameron alone. Even as Prime Minister, he did not have the authority to simply call the referendum. That required an Act of Parliament, which passed by an overwhelming majority with 544 MPs in favour and just 53 against at Second Reading. As it happened, seven of the Lib Dems’ then eight MPs voted for the EU Referendum Bill in 2015.

But the Lib Dems’ hypocrisy does not end there. For all the vitriol they pour on Cameron for holding the referendum, the Lib Dems neglect to mention that they were calling for an in/out referendum on the EU many years before the Conservative Party. Indeed, we have all seen the infamous 2008 Lib Dem campaign leaflet circulating on Twitter – very familiar to those of us who were Conservative activists at the time – featuring a fresh-faced Nick Clegg demanding “a real referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.” The leaflet observed that:

“It’s been over thirty years since the British people last had a vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union. That’s why the Liberal Democrats want a real referendum on Europe. Only a real referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will let the people decide our country’s future.”

2008 was also the year that Clegg infamously stormed out of the House of Commons when the then speaker, Michael Martin, refused to call a Lib Dem amendment in his name demanding an in/out EU referendum.

Following Ed Davey’s expulsion from the chamber, Clegg said:

“I share the dismay of [Ed Davey]. What guidance can [the Deputy Speaker] give me on how we can secure – if not today, at some point during the remaining stages of the Bill – the opportunity to debate the issue that many members want debated and many members of the public want debated: our future membership of the EU?”

Davey (then the Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesman) had struck an even more forceful tone, remarking:

“Will the Chair reconsider the decision not to select the Liberal Democrat amendment for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU? That is the question that goes to the heart of the debate before the House. That is the debate that people want to hear. We are being gagged, Sir.”

The current Lib Dem Leader, Jo Swinson, also contributed to this debate, and her speech is fascinating when compared with the comments she made at the weekend. Swinson repeated that:

“The Liberal Democrats would like to have a referendum on the major issue of whether we are in or out of Europe.”

On an in/out EU referendum, she noted:

“We support such a referendum; we will continue to campaign for it and hope that it will find favour in this House.”

Furthermore, she described being denied a vote on Clegg’s referendum amendment as “incredibly disappointing” and something she felt “very passionately” about.

Swinson’s eurosceptic side – mysteriously neglected of late – was also on display, as she noted:

“For too long, power in the EU has been concentrated among those who are appointed, not elected. The structures of the EU have often proved cumbersome to say the least, at times even making this House look modern and streamlined by comparison.”

The Lib Dems remained proponents of an in/out referendum at the 2010 General Election which saw them enter into a Coalition Government with the Conservatives, with a carefully caveated manifesto promise to hold a referendum “the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU”.

The fact that the Lib Dems long advocated giving the British people a say on our membership of the EU, and indeed were the first mainstream party to call for an in/out referendum on the matter, makes their new pledge to cancel Brexit without even a second referendum all the more extraordinary. And that, itself, being an evolution from a position that a second referendum result would only be respected if it resulted in a Remain vote.

Seemingly without a hint of self-awareness, Lib Dem party policy is now to ignore the result of a referendum for which they themselves were the first to call. This wildly divisive policy shows the Lib Dems to be utterly disinterested in bringing the country together, their uncompromising approach only serving to fuel further discord and division. There is nothing inherently wrong with regretting a referendum result, but it is deluded to think that pretending it didn’t happen is going to lead to anything other than bitter polarisation.

It is therefore no surprise that Lib Dem grandee Sir Norman Lamb has warned that the party is “playing with fire”, describing the new policy as “a threat to the social contract” that risks dividing an already fractured country further.

Let’s be clear: nullifying a referendum for which the Lib Dems were the first to call, which was overwhelmingly endorsed by Parliament and which was the largest democratic exercise in our nation’s history, is not a moderate position. Neither liberal, nor democrats, this party has become the truly extremist force in British politics.

The post The hypocritical Lib Dems want to ignore the result of the Brexit referendum they demanded a decade ago appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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The Guardian apologises for saying David Cameron felt ‘privileged pain’ over six-year-old son’s death

The Guardian has apologised for writing that David Cameron had only felt “privileged pain” over the death of his son.

In extracts from his memoirs, the former Prime Minister praised the NHS for the care he received before his son died, aged, six.

Ivan had Ohtahara syndrome, a condition which meant he could not move his limbs or speak. An editorial by the newspaper wrote that Mr Cameron “might have understood the damage his policies have done” had his son been treated at an understaffed hospital, or been caring for an elderly parent.

“Even his experience of the NHS, which looked after his severely disabled son, has been that of the better functioning and better funded part of s if the system,” the paper wrote.

Lacking empathy

It removed the section from its website within hours of publication following an outcry.

Chancellor Sajid Javid wrote on Twitter: “Never has an editorial so lacked in empathy, while so righteously criticising others for lacking it.”

Actress and writer Jenny Eclair wrote: “I am furious with David Cameron but to question his grief privilege as the Guardian is doing is beyond vile – his 6 year old son died.”

A Guardian spokesman said: “The original version of an editorial posted online yesterday fell far short of our standards.

“It was changed significantly within two hours, and we apologise completely.”

Son’s struggle

David Cameron and his wife Samantha walk to their house following the death of their 6-year-old son, on February 25, 2009 (Photo: Getty)

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David Cameron’s book: Everything we’ve learned from his memoir ‘For The Record’

In his memoirs, which are released on Thursday, Mr Cameron recalls realising something was wrong with his newborn child after just a few days.

“When you watch your tiny baby undergoing multiple blood tests, your heart aches. When they bend him back into the foetal position to remove fluid from the base of his spine with a long, threatening-looking needle, it almost breaks,” he writes.

He adds: “A world in which things had always gone right for me suddenly gave me an immense shock and challenge.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy in this way. It was as if the world stopped turning.”

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‘Do I have regrets? Yes’: David Cameron says he’s ‘deeply sorry about all that’s happened’ since losing the Brexit referendum

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has said “not a day goes by” when he does not think about all the decisions he took in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, and that is he is “deeply sorry about all that’s happened” since.

In an interview with ITV News’ Tom Bradby, due to air on Monday night, the former Tory leader said he feels “huge regrets” for losing the referendum.

The interview comes ahead of the release of Mr Cameron’s memoir this week, which documents his time in office until it ended the day after the 2016 referendum when he stepped down having failed to keep the UK inside the European Union.

‘I’m deeply sorry’

In a clip of the interview released ahead of it airing in full on Monday night, Mr Cameron addresses the result of the referendum and the three years of political crisis that has ensued.

“I’m deeply sorry about all that’s happened. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about all the decisions I made and all that has followed.

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The Cameron Interview: what time it’s on ITV tonight, and what David Cameron tells Tom Bradby

“But when I go back to that decision, that Britain’s position needed to be sorted and we needed a renegotiation and a referendum; I believed then that was the right approach,” he said.

But despite this Mr Cameron said he still has “huge regrets”.

“I regret that we lost the campaign. I regret I let expectations about the negotiation run far too high,” he said.

“I regret some of the individual decisions we made in the campaign. I think perhaps there’s a case to say the timing could have been different.”

‘Do I have regrets? Yes’

David Cameron speaks with Tom Bradby. (Photo: ITV News)

The former Prime Minister agreed the decision had haunted him, admitting: “You know, this is a huge decision for our country, and I think we’ve taken the wrong path; as I’ve said, it can be made to work…

“If you’re asking me: do I have regrets? Yes. Am I sorry about the state the country’s got into? Yes. Do I feel I have some responsibility for that? Yes.

“It was my referendum; my campaign; my decision to try and renegotiate. And I accept all of those things and people, including those watching this programme, will have to decide how much blame to put on me.”

‘A referendum had become inevitable’

But the former Prime Minister rejected the idea that the referendum had simply been held due to issues in the Conservative Party.

He said: “Of course, there were big issues in the Conservative Party, as there were divisions in the country. I mean, every political party at some stage between 2005 and 2015 supported a referendum at a general election. The Liberal Democrats did, the Labor Party did, the Green Party did, we did…

“I believed it was inevitable that trying to settle it with a re-negotiation and a referendum had become inevitable.”

“My attempt to solve this problem failed and decisions I made perhaps contributed to that failure, but it was at least an honest attempt to try and grapple with this issue.”

Additional reporting by PA

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David Cameron says it was a ‘disastrous decision’ to expel 21 ‘hard-working’ Tory Brexit rebels

David Cameron has warned Boris Johnson to reverse his decision to expel 21 Conservatives for rebelling against his government or else face “disaster” for his party.

The former Prime Minister said the expulsion of the MPs earlier this month for voting in favour of the Brexit delay bill was a “bad decision” by Mr Johnson and if it wasn’t corrected it could have serious consequences for the Conservatives.

Mr Cameron made the intervention in an interview with Tom Bradby for ITV, to be broadcast on Monday evening to mark publication of his memoirs, For The Record. Two of those rebels, Philip Lee and Sam Gyimah, have defected to the Liberal Democrats, while the other MPs, who included former Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and David Gauke, are sitting as independents.

The decision by Mr Johnson to order the Tory whip to be removed – despite the Prime Minister rebelling against Theresa May’s government on Brexit several times – has been widely criticised by Conservative figures.

‘Disaster for Tories’

David Cameron plans to campaign for the MPs ejected from the Conservative party by Boris Johnson if they stand at the next election.
David Cameron plans to campaign for the MPs ejected from the Conservative party by Boris Johnson if they stand at the next election (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty)

In his ITV interview, Mr Cameron said: “I obviously disagree with the idea of taking away the whip from 21 hard-working, loyal Conservatives. I think that was a bad decision, if it isn’t reversed, it will be I think a disastrous decision. I hope that Boris will get a deal in Brussels, he will come back, try and bring parliament together to back that deal – I don’t see why those 21 people shouldn’t be restored to the Conservative whip. If they’re not, I really worry about what could happen.”

The ex-PM said Mr Johnson was wrong to suspend parliament – although he added he didn’t think it was illegal. “It looked to me, from the outside, like rather sharp practice of trying to restrict the debate and I thought it was actually from his point of view probably counterproductive. In the end, we have to work through parliament, and you can’t deny the arithmetic of parliament and the majorities there are in parliament.”

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David Cameron claims Boris Johnson supported Brexit to boost his career

Mr Cameron also spoke movingly about how he felt the UK had to take action against the Assad regime in Syria after seeing footage of dead children killed in a suspected chemical attack.

The former Prime Minister said the TV images of the atrocity in 2013 made him think of his son Ivan, who had died four years earlier, and “felt we’ve got to act”.

“I watched it on the television and the sight of the children laid out in rows made me think of Ivan and everything that had happened to me and I thought it was just so appalling. I felt we’ve got to act.”

The Cameron Interview will be broadcast on ITV tonight at 8pm.

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The Guardian’s dehumanising of Cameron confirms something ugly

I doubted that anyone could be unmoved by reading, in yesterday’s Sunday Times, the extract from David Cameron’s book about his son, Ivan.

It had a dual power – simultaneously communicating the love, loss and heartbreak of a bereaved parent, while leaving the reader certain that the full scale of each emotion was in reality beyond the reckoning of those of us who are mercifully trying to understand it from a distance. We can all conceive of the awfulness of such a situation in our imagination, reelingly and sickeningly so with the aid of an honest and effective writer, but none of us can truly appreciate the truth of it. Even the recounting left me – and many other readers, judging from the comments below the extract – with a tear in my eye.

Perhaps the author of this morning’s Guardian editorial had not read the extract in question. I certainly hope that’s the case, because had they done so it would be all the more inexcusable to have written this passage (now deleted by the newspaper):

‘Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain. The miseries of boarding school at seven are entirely real and for some people emotionally crippling but they come with an assurance that only important people can suffer that way. Even his experience of the NHS, which looked after his severely disabled son, has been that of the better functioning and better funded parts of the system. Had he been forced to wrestle with the understaffed and over-managed hospitals of much of England, or had he been trying to get the system to look after a dying parent rather than a dying child, he might have understood a little of the damage that his policies have done.’

Like Cameron’s account of his experience, this has a dual impact. The first is an almost physical revolt against how vile and unfeeling it is to diminish and dismiss his family’s loss as merely “privileged pain”.

Obviously there is no such thing. Pain is pain – privilege might spare one a pain in the first place, but it cannot dull a parent’s feeling at the suffering of their child, nor provide a route to bypass the agony of bereavement.

It’s in the implication that it can do such things that the second impact of those words can be found.

The anonymous leader writer does not lack empathy entirely – indeed, they appear to issue their cruel verdict as an illustration of their empathy for those they see as victims of Cameron’s policies. Rather, this is a targeted lack of empathy, inspired by a political choice.

Most obviously it’s a particularly obscene outgrowth of the politics of envy: literally dehumanising Cameron because of his “privilege”, as though money or power gave him a thicker skin, or excised the part of his soul which mourns his son.

But it isn’t just that. Presumably the writer doesn’t believe this of all people blessed with privilege – or they would feel the same about their many Guardian colleagues who are fortunate to be well-heeled, well-educated and prominent in public life. No, this isn’t simply about the rich – it’s about the rich and right-wing being a different, supposedly inhumane, breed.

In other words, political disagreement, as well as a fortunate background, made the former Prime Minister a valid target for such treatment. I doubt it was deliberate; rather it has become a baked-in cultural assumption in some quarters, an unthinking bigotry which starts off from principles that the holder believes makes them a nice person and carries them by logical extension to a really rather unpleasant place.

That error is not new. Years ago, when Cameron occasionally made public reference to the widely known fact of his bereavement – something he could hardly hide, even had he wanted to, which I doubt – some were sufficiently partisan as to suggest that he was somehow seeking political advantage. Such people did not used to write national newspaper leaders, but apparently the beliefs that underlie such behaviour are spreading.

In that sense, the sorry episode is emblematic of a vicious undercurrent of our times. Even the original tweet flagging the Guardian’s comments began ‘I’m no fan of David Cameron but…’. That ought not to need saying – empathy if it is anything is free of implications of political alliance. That it was said is less a reflection on the Tweeter than the mean-spirited environment into which she knew she was stepping.

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The Cameron Interview: what time it’s on ITV tonight, and what David Cameron tells Tom Bradby

David Cameron‘s autobiography has been causing controversy ever since the book was announced, and now in the week that it is published the former Prime Minister is taking to TV to discuss his time in office.

Cameron is felt by many to be the man who should shoulder the blame for the whole Brexit mess, for it was he who called the referendum in 2016 in the first place, but his explosive book blames his former colleagues instead.

With the main stories from the memoir – titled For the Record – making headlines this weekend, the former leader is now set to be interviewed on primetime TV – will he defend his actions?

Here’s your need to know about the interview:

When is it on TV?

The Cameron Interview is on ITV on Monday 16 September at 8pm. It is half an hour long.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron resigns on the steps of 10 Downing Street (Photo: Getty)

Who is interviewing Cameron and what will they cover?

The interviewer will be Tom Bradby, ITV News’ political editor between 2005 and 2015, who currently presents News at Ten and political discussion series The Agenda with Tom Bradby.

It has been three years since Cameron stepped down as Prime Minister, following the country’s momentous vote to leave the European Union.

This will be his first in-depth television interview about his time in office. Cameron will talk extensively to Bradby about the highs and lows of his premiership, his thoughts on the 2016 vote, and its consequences for the UK.

What has previously come out from the book?

In his book, Cameron calls Boris Johnson a liar and claims he backed the Leave campaign to boost his career.

He said the now-Prime Minister wanted to become the “darling of the party” and suggested that Johnson “didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile – Michael Gove in particular – to win that crown”.

He added: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
David Cameron's new book is being serialised (Photo: Richard Ansett/BBC)
David Cameron’s new book is published this week (Photo: Richard Ansett/BBC)

He also accused cabinet minister Gove, who used to be one of his closest political friends, of being a “foam-flecked Faragist” whose “one quality” was disloyalty.

Describing his former colleagues’ behaviour during the EU referendum campaign, Cameron wrote: “Both of them behaved appallingly, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism.”

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David Cameron’s book: Everything we’ve learned from his memoir ‘For The Record’

David Cameron claims Boris Johnson supported Brexit to boost his career

Meanwhile, he added that he was perturbed about the Brexit situation: “I think about this every day. Every single day I think about it, the referendum and the fact that we lost and the consequences and the things that could have been done differently, and I worry desperately about what is going to happen next.

“I think we can get to a situation where we leave but we are friends, neighbours and partners. We can get there, but I would love to fast-forward to that moment because it’s a painful memory for the country and it’s painful to watch.”

Asked if he found sleeping hard, he said: “I worry about it a lot. I worry about it a lot.”

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David Cameron’s book: Everything we’ve learned from his memoir ‘For The Record’

David Cameron has spoken of his momentous decision to hold a Brexit vote and his sadness at the realisation that he had “failed” to keep the UK in the European Union in his long-awaited memoir from his time as Prime Minister.

The former Tory leader said he “sad to leave office but even more sad that Britain would be leaving the EU” following the shock 2016 result.

His memoir, titled For The Record, is being serialised in The Times ahead of its highly anticipated publication on Thursday.

In the book, Mr Cameron he also penned a scathing analysis of current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and described his and his families’ emotional final moments in Downing Street.

Here is a summary of the key quotes published:

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron will give his first TV interview in three years
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron has been speaking about his new book (Photo: Jason Lee /Pool/Getty Images)

On Brexit

Mr Cameron said he was “deeply sorry” he lost the referendum vote and admitted he had “many regrets” about his strategy but still maintained that calling the vote was the right decision.

‘I know some won’t forgive me’

Mr Cameron conceded that there would be “those who will never forgive me for holding [the Brexit vote], or for failing to deliver the outcome – Britain staying in a reformed EU – that I sought”.

He wrote: “I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed. The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed.”

David Cameron sips from an “I’m In” mug in 2016 ahead of the EU referendum as the prime minister campaigns to avoid a Brexit (Photo: Getty)

Mr Cameron said he thinks about the consequences of the vote to leave the EU “every single day” and worries “desperately” about what will happen next.

In the memoir, Mr Cameron described how he phoned other European leaders and then US president Barack Obama to apologise failing to keep the UK in the bloc.

Writing about the morning after the Brexit referendum, he said: “There were phone calls with the other first and deputy first ministers. I spoke to European leaders and to Obama. To each I said the same thing: ‘I had a strategy to keep Britain in the EU. I executed the strategy. It didn’t work. I’m sorry.'”

‘It was still the right approach’

Mr Cameron said that he still believed the “central question of whether it was right to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and give people the chance to have their say on it” was the right decision and “inevitable”.

“I believe that, particularly with the Eurozone crisis, the organisation was changing before our very eyes, and our already precarious place in it was becoming harder to sustain,” he wrote.

“Renegotiating our position was my attempt to address that, and putting the outcome to a public vote was not just fair and not just overdue, but necessary and, I believe, ultimately inevitable.”

On his resignation

The extracts of the book published reveal Mr Cameron’s sadness and disappointment over having to resign early after losing the referendum vote.

He said the first time he ventured out of “the confines of Downing Street” was to visit Buckingham Palace to speak to the Queen.

“The Queen and I discussed what had happened and I explained why I had decided it was best for the country that I resign,” he said.

Ex prime minister David Cameron speaks beside (L-R) his daughter Nancy Gwen, daughter Florence Rose Endellion, his wife Samantha Cameron and son Arthur Elwen outside 10 Downing Street as he announces his resignation (Photo: Getty)

‘I hummed to keep calm’

He also described the moment he announced on the steps of Downing Street that he would be stepping aside for incumbent prime minister Theresa May.

After giving a speech to the cameras he was heard humming a lighthearted tune to himself which, he said, was an attempt to keep himself calm.

He wrote: “As I walked back to the black door I thought, ‘On top of everything else this bloody door isn’t going to open is it?’ I hummed a tune to keep myself calm which was inevitably picked up by the microphones.”

On Boris Johnson

The former Prime Minister said that his successor, who campaigned to leave in the EU referendum, “didn’t believe” in Brexit and only backed it to further his political career.

‘Boris doesn’t believe in Brexit’

“The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career,” he wrote, and later added in an interview that he believed Mr Johnson and co-Leave campaigner Michael Gove had “trash[ed]” the Government during the referendum campaign.

“By the end, Boris and Michael seemed to me to be different people. Boris had backed something he didn’t believe in,” he wrote in the memoir.

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson did not support brexit (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

“Michael had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends … while taking up positions that were completely against his political identity.

“Both then behaved appallingly, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism.”

‘Is Gove cracked?’

Mr Cameron also wrote about the battle to replace him as Tory leader and Prime Minister, during which Mr Gove initially supported Mr Johnson before announcing he was going to stand against him.

After Mr Johnson subsequently dropped out of the leadership race a few days later Mr Cameron said he text him joking: “You should have stuck with me, mate.”

He said that Mr Johnson replied: “Blimey, is he [Michael Gove] a bit cracked or something?”

Referring to a speech Mr Cameron had given at a Tory fundraiser the night before, Mr Johnson added: “Great speech last night, everyone watched and thought we’d all gone insane to lose you and people were looking at me as if I was a leper, but you had 11 hard years of party leadership and six superbly as PM, more than I will ever do. Boris.”

On Theresa May

Mr Cameron said he had always privately backed Theresa May, who eventually was chosen as his successor, to become the next Prime Minister as he saw her as a “safe pair of hands” and thought she “could be a good leader.”

Theresa May succeeded Mr Cameron as PM (PA)

‘Safe pair of hands’

“I believed that the toughness I had seen (and been on the receiving end of) would serve her well in Brussels,” he wrote in the memoir. “However I knew that the wind was in the sails of the ‘Brexiteers’.”

He said that when she was named Tory leader he “felt relieved that I would be passing the responsibility to a safe pair of hands”.

“And I felt pride in the fact that Theresa would be Britain’s – and the Conservative Party’s – second female prime Minister,” he wrote.

On his family

In the book Mr Cameron says he and his wife both “started smoking again” due to the stress of the referendum result and revealed that his wife was smoking and dancing around the Downing Street kitchen when new resident Mrs May and her husband Philip walked in.

‘Friends thought we had nothing in common’

In on extract published on Monday, Mr Cameron described meeting “this laid-back, almost silent, waif-like thing lying on my parents sofa” aged 17.

He wrote about how their “long courtship” began a few years later after she was invited on a family holiday as a friend of his sisters and said their friends thought they were completely ill-suited.

“I was the ambitious Tory apparatchik. She was the hippie-like art student. I was working in the Treasury for Norman Lamont. She was living in a Bristol flat with people who would have happily wrung his neck.

“I was trying to get invited to highbrow political dinner parties in Westminster. She was playing pool with the rapper Tricky in the trendiest part of Bristol.”

David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after the christening of their daughter Florence Rose Endellion in 2011 (Photo: Getty)

“Did we ever argue about politics? Yes of course. My friends would say she helped to turn a pretty traditional Home Counties Tory boy into someone a bit more rounded, more questioning and more open-minded.”

‘Ivan’s death left us close to collapse’

Mr Cameron also described the tragedy of losing his first child, Ivan, who died aged six after being born with cerebral palsy and a severe form of epilepsy.

“A world in which everything had always gone right for me suddenly gave me an immense shock and challenge,” he said.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy in this way. It was as if the world stopped turning.”

He said the experience of watching his child suffer “was a torture I can hardly bear to remember … We felt close to collapse.”

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David Cameron ‘ready to campaign for Tory Brexit rebels’ in snap election

David Cameron could campaign for Conservative MPs who were stripped of the party whip for opposing Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans if they stand as independents in a snap general election.

He has condemned the punishment handed out to 21 MPs who broke ranks this month to vote to prevent Mr Johnson pressing ahead with a no-deal Brexit if he fails to reach agreement with Brussels.

The former Prime Minister has told some of the Tory rebels he could canvass in their constituencies if they are not readmitted to the party and try to defend their seats, The Mail on Sunday reported.

“David reached out to lots of us and even said he would come and campaign if we stood as independents. He was very open about it on the phone,” a rebel source told the paper.

Expulsion risk

Mr Cameron would risk being expelled from the party he led for 10 years if he was to canvass for someone standing against the official Tory candidate.

He has condemned Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy which culminated in the whip being removed from such senior party figures as Philip Hammond, Kenneth Clarke, Rory Stewart and David Gauke and the decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks.

The 21 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the party in Tuesday night's vote on blocking a no-deal Brexit. (Photo: UK Parliament/PA)
The 21 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the party in the vote on blocking a no-deal Brexit. (Photo: UK Parliament/PA)

Several of the rebels served in senior positions in Mr Cameron’s government.

He said: “Taking the whip from hard-working Conservative MPs and sharp practices using prorogation of Parliament have rebounded.

“I didn’t support either of those things. Neither do I think a no-deal Brexit is a good idea.”

Johnson urged to offer olive branch

i disclosed last week that the Prime Minister is under pressure from Cabinet ministers to offer a route back into the party to some of the anti-no-deal rebels.

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David Cameron claims Boris Johnson supported Brexit to boost his career

They are arguing that previously loyal MPs such as Steve Brine and Stephen Hammond, who both served as ministers under Theresa May, should be offered the chance to retake the whip and stand as Tories at the next election.

The former leader William Hague has described the expulsion as a “disgusting act of hypocrisy” which would make the party look weak and divided ahead of the election campaign.

But No 10 has insisted the rebels knew the consequences of backing the anti-no-deal bill and have no excuse for defying the whip.

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David Cameron claims Boris Johnson supported Brexit to boost his career

Boris Johnson is a liar who backed the Leave campaign to boost his career, according to David Cameron.

The former prime minister launched the scathing attack on Mr Johnson in the latest extract from his memoir published in The Sunday Times.

Mr Cameron writes that the now-Prime Minister wanted to become the “darling of the party”.

He suggests that Mr Johnson “didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile – Michael Gove in particular – to win that crown”.

‘Help his career’

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a “renegotiation, followed by a second referendum” (Photo: Getty)

“The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”

According to the former PM, Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a “fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum,” which he now says he opposes.

In the same extract, he also accuses cabinet minister Michael Gove, who used to be one of his closest political friend, of being a “foam-flecked Faragist” whose “one quality” was disloyalty.

Describing his former colleagues’ behaviour during the EU referendum campaign in 2016, the former PM writes: “Both then behaved appallingly, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism.”

‘Ambassadors for the truth-twisting age of populism’

Mr Cameron writes that Michael Gove and Boris Johnson behave like ‘ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism’ (Photo: Getty)

The latest revelations come after Mr Cameron said a second referendum on Brexit could be needed because British politics is “stuck” over what to do next in another extract published on Saturday.

Read more:

Councils warn of unrest and supply shortages under no-deal Brexit

His explosive comments, are his first full public remarks on Brexit for more than three years after being driven to resign as Prime Minister for losing the referendum in June 2016.

Mr Cameron’s suggestion that a second national vote might be needed to “unblock the blockage” is likely to cause consternation given his original decision to call a referendum has led to more than three years of division, rancour and stalemate in Westminster and across the UK.

Nevertheless, Mr Cameron says he does not regret calling a referendum because of political pressure inside his own party and problems with the EU and eurozone.

But he adds that the outcome left him feeling depressed and suggests he has trouble sleeping at night, saying “I worry about it a lot.”

Inside the explosive memoir

On Boris Johnson

Cameron said he behaved “appallingly” during the 2016 referendum campaign and added: “Boris had never [previously] argued for leaving the EU, right?”

On Michael Gove

The minister for no deal planning is described as “mendacious”, and asked whether he used his phrase “you are either a team player or a wanker” to Mr Gove, Mr Cameron says: “I think I put it in a text.”“Michael was a very strong Eurosceptic, but someone whom I’d known as this liberal, compassionate, rational Conservative ended up making arguments about Turkey [joining] and being swamped and what have you. They were trashing the government of which they were a part, effectively.”

On Priti Patel

“I remember her attack that wealthy people didn’t understand the problems of immigration. It felt very like she was put on point to do some attacking of the government and its record … I thought there were places Conservatives wouldn’t go against each other. And they did.”

On his original decision to have a referendum

“It seemed to me that there was a genuine problem between Britain and the EU with the eurozone crisis and the development of the euro that needed fixing.“There was also – I don’t deny it for a second – a huge political pressure to have a referendum.”

On why the Remain campaign failed

“It turned into this terrible Tory psychodrama and I couldn’t seem to get through. What Boris and Michael Gove were doing was more exciting than the issues I was trying to get across. I felt like I was in a sort of quagmire by the end… Something I got wrong was that the latent Leaver gene in the Conservatives was much stronger [than I thought].”

On Leave campaign tactics

“I’m afraid it is a real problem in politics – and there is no real answer to this. If you’re having a row about your issue, you’re winning, even if the numbers are wrong … Over the issue of whether or not we had a veto over Turkey, and over the issue of the £350 million on the bus, I think they [the Leave campaign] left the truth at home.”

On feeling miserable

“I was miserable about giving up the job I loved and working for the country I loved.”

On being abused in the street

“People come up and say all sorts of things… I’ve had some robust exchanges.”

On a second referendum

“I don’t think you can rule it out because we’re stuck … I’m not saying one will happen or should happen. I’m just saying that you can’t rule things out right now because you’ve got to find some way of unblocking the blockage.”

On prorogation

“I think proroguing parliament – pretending it doesn’t exist – I think that would be a bad thing.”

On no-deal

“I think it is a bad outcome. I very much hope it doesn’t happen.”

On Mr Johnson expelling rebel Tory MPs

“Taking the whip from hard-working Conservative MPs and sharp practices using prorogation of Parliament have rebounded. I didn’t support either of those things.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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David Cameron admits smoking marijuana with wife Samantha after first trying drug at Eton

David Cameron got “off his head” on cannabis when he was a schoolboy, the former Prime Minister has admitted.

But he refuses to say whether or not he has taken cocaine like his ex-best friend Michael Gove.

In his new memoir, Mr Cameron writes that he first smoked marijuana as a teenager at Eton, then in later life continued to use the drug with his wife, Samantha.

He wrote of a weakness for following “even when the crowd was heading in the wrong direction” and smoking joints on a small island in the River Thames.

The episode ended with a roundup of pupils, who had brought the drugs into school, and who had smoked it including Mr Cameron.

Drugs in politics

Michael Gove admitted cocaine use (Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Asked by The Times if he had also taken the Class A drug cocaine, he refused to answer.

In the past he has answered the question only to say that he had a “normal student experience” as a young man.

During the leadership campaign this summer, Boris Johnson also faced questions about whether he had used Class A drugs. He appeared to suggest he had taken cocaine once, at the age of 19.

Michael Gove, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, admitted in June to taking cocaine when he was a journalist.

The revelation is widely thought to have killed off his chances of becoming Tory party leader

Politician’s drug use

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Former PM David Cameron’s lack of contrition for this political Brexit chaos is startling

Other leadership contenders have also admitted some drug use.

Rory Stewart admitted to smoking  opium at a wedding in Afghanistan, Jeremy Hunt said he had a cannabis lasssi while in India, Dominic Raab  admitted taking cannabis as a student, Matt Hancock is understood to have tried cannabis as a student and Andrea Leasom admitted smoking weed at university.

Mr Cameron is also not the only political leader to admit to heavy drug use during his school days.

The former President of the US, Barack Obama, was said to be a member of a so-called “Choom Gang” at his Hawaii high school, dedicated to celebrating marijuana.

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Former PM David Cameron’s lack of contrition for this political Brexit chaos is startling

The lack of contrition for this political chaos is startling. “It pains me what has happened… and the mistakes I made,” David Cameron does concede, as he breaks his silence, ahead of the publication of his memoirs.

Yet, despite his fears for Britain’s future in the event of no deal, and the shambolic Remain campaign that he presided over, he is unrepentant about his decision to hold a Brexit referendum.

There is a flicker of insight into Cameron’s day-to-day life since his vanishing act from Downing Street. Only 16 per cent of the public have a positive view of him, YouGov polling suggests, and the former PM says that he is abused in the street.

This is unlikely to improve in the near future. Although he won’t tread the normal book promotion circuit – only holding select events – he will still have to run the gauntlet, such is the strength of feeling. Expect furious heckles. Many Remainers loathe him, while Brexiteers don’t credit him for botching his campaign and handing them victory.

There are rapier thrusts for Boris Johnson, as Cameron criticises the new PM’s conduct and leadership of the country
There are rapier thrusts for Boris Johnson, as Cameron criticises the new PM’s conduct and leadership of the country (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty)

Interviewer Andrew Billen writes, tellingly: “What I don’t get is a sense that he understands just how angry people are with him.”

For fans of political bloodsports, next week’s memoirs will see scores settled. “Mendacious” Gove gets the sawn-off shotgun treatment. Cameron apparently texted him: “You are either a team  player or a wanker.” (You decide.)

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From left to right, must-read political memoirs from across the spectrum

There are rapier thrusts for Boris Johnson, as Cameron criticises the new PM’s conduct and leadership of the country. Home Secretary Priti Patel also gets it. Gove and Johnson, he adds, have “behaved appallingly”, “trashing the government” and “they left the truth at home”. The psychologists among you may observe signs of projection.

Cameron insists that he didn’t cheerily hum his way out of No 10, moments after resigning, but was “hugely depressed” about losing his job, and that he has lost sleep: “I think about this every day… I worry desperately about what is going to happen next.”

The stakes are high for him. These memoirs – purchased by HarperCollins for a reported £800,000 – are Cameron’s chance to try to seize control of his legacy. Slim chance. That’s now down to 10 Downing Street’s incumbent.

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David Cameron says a second Brexit referendum could resolve issue, calling Boris Johnson and Michael Gove liars

David Cameron has said a second referendum on Brexit could be needed because British politics is “stuck” over what to do next. The former prime minister makes the extraordinary intervention in an interview to promote his memoirs – a book in which he savages Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for behaving “appallingly” for “trashing” their own government as they campaigned to Leave the EU in 2016.

Mr Cameron calls Mr Gove, who used to be one of his closest political friends, “mendacious” and even describes him as a “wanker”. On Turkey’s membership of the EU and the £350m bus pledge, Mr Cameron suggests Mr Gove and Mr Johnson lied to the public – saying “they left the truth at home”.

Mr Cameron’s explosive comments, in an interview with The Times and in his book, For the Record, are his first full public remarks on Brexit for more than three years after being driven to resign as Prime Minister for losing the referendum in June 2016.

The ex-PM’s comments about Mr Johnson and Mr Gove will be seen as a reopening of old wounds, after all three men fell out with each other in 2016. Mr Cameron even suggests Mr Gove, now the minister in charge of no deal planning, misled him in 2016 by telling him he wasn’t going to play a major part in the Leave campaign, and that Mr Johnson had previously “never argued for leaving the EU” before joining up.

‘I don’t regret Brexit vote’

Mr Cameron calls Mr Gove, who used to be one of his closest political friends, 'mendacious' and even describes him as a 'wanker'
Mr Cameron calls Mr Gove, who used to be one of his closest political friends, ‘mendacious’ and even describes him as a ‘wanker’ (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty)

Mr Cameron’s suggestion that a second national vote might be needed to “unblock the blockage” is likely to cause consternation given his original decision to call a referendum has led to more than three years of division, rancour and stalemate in Westminster and across the UK.

Nevertheless, Mr Cameron says he does not regret calling a referendum because of political pressure inside his own party and problems with the EU and eurozone. But he adds that the outcome left him feeling depressed and suggests he has trouble sleeping at night, saying “I worry about it a lot.”

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From left to right, must-read political memoirs from across the spectrum

He adds: “I think about this every day. Every single day I think about it, the referendum and the fact that we lost and the consequences and the things that could have been done differently, and I worry desperately about what is going to happen next. I think we can get to a situation where we leave but we are friends, neighbours and partners. We can get there, but I would love to fast-forward to that moment because it’s painful for the country and it’s painful to watch.”

The ex-PM says a no-deal Brexit would be a “bad outcome”, adding: “I very much hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it should be pursued.”

Cameron admits to smoking marijuana

David Cameron got “off his head” on cannabis when he was a schoolboy, the former Prime Minister has admitted, writes Hugo Gye.

But he refuses to say whether or not he has taken cocaine like his ex-best friend Michael Gove.

In his new memoir, Mr Cameron writes that he first smoked marijuana as a teenager at Eton, then in later life continued to use the drug with his wife, Samantha.

Asked by The Times if he had also taken the Class A drug cocaine, he refused to answer.

Mr Gove, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, admitted in June to taking cocaine when he was a journalist. The revelation is widely thought to have killed off his chances of becoming Tory party leader.

Cocaine rumours have repeatedly dogged Mr Cameron, dating back to before he became Prime Minister. A graduate of the University of Oxford, he has never denied, nor confirmed, taking the drug, saying only that he had a “normal student experience” as a young man.

During the leadership campaign this summer, Boris Johnson also faced questions about whether he had used Class A drugs. He appeared to suggest he had taken cocaine once, at the age of 19.

Mr Cameron is not the only political leader to admit to heavy drug use during his school days.

The former President of the US, Barack Obama, was said to be a member of a so-called “Choom Gang” at his Hawaii high school, dedicated to celebrating marijuana.

Politics ‘is stuck’

Mr Cameron suggests Mr Gove and Mr Johnson lied to the public - saying 'they left the truth at home'
Mr Cameron suggests Mr Gove and Mr Johnson lied to the public – saying ‘they left the truth at home’ (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty)

Asked whether he thinks there might be a second referendum, Mr Cameron tells the newspaper: “I don’t think you can rule it out because we’re stuck.”

When asked whether he would campaign in such a vote, Mr Cameron says: “I’m not saying one will happen or should happen. I’m just saying that you can’t rule things out right now because you’ve got to find some way of unblocking the blockage. I think there are certain things you shouldn’t do to unblock the blockage. I think proroguing parliament – pretending it doesn’t exist – I think that would be a bad thing.”

Mr Cameron’s political foes and former friends have been bracing themselves for the long-awaited book, which is published next Thursday. The profits from the book are expected to be donated to charities.

Earlier, when asked whether he was expecting to be criticised by his predecessor, the current Prime Minister said: “Absolutely nothing that David Cameron says, in his memoirs or in the course of the next few days, will diminish the affection and respect in which I hold him … I think he has a very distinguished record and a legacy to be proud of.”

Inside the explosive memoir

On Boris Johnson

Cameron said he behaved “appallingly” during the 2016 referendum campaign and added: “Boris had never [previously] argued for leaving the EU, right?”

On Michael Gove

The minister for no deal planning is described as “mendacious”, and asked whether he used his phrase “you are either a team player or a wanker” to Mr Gove, Mr Cameron says: “I think I put it in a text.”

“Michael was a very strong Eurosceptic, but someone whom I’d known as this liberal, compassionate, rational Conservative ended up making arguments about Turkey [joining] and being swamped and what have you. They were trashing the government of which they were a part, effectively.”

On Priti Patel

“I remember her attack that wealthy people didn’t understand the problems of immigration. It felt very like she was put on point to do some attacking of the government and its record … I thought there were places Conservatives wouldn’t go against each other. And they did.”

On his original decision to have a referendum

“It seemed to me that there was a genuine problem between Britain and the EU with the eurozone crisis and the development of the euro that needed fixing.

“There was also – I don’t deny it for a second – a huge political pressure to have a referendum.”

On why the Remain campaign failed

“It turned into this terrible Tory psychodrama and I couldn’t seem to get through. What Boris and Michael Gove were doing was more exciting than the issues I was trying to get across. I felt like I was in a sort of quagmire by the end… Something I got wrong was that the latent Leaver gene in the Conservatives was much stronger [than I thought].”

On Leave campaign tactics

“I’m afraid it is a real problem in politics – and there is no real answer to this. If you’re having a row about your issue, you’re winning, even if the numbers are wrong … Over the issue of whether or not we had a veto over Turkey, and over the issue of the £350 million on the bus, I think they [the Leave campaign] left the truth at home.”

On feeling miserable

He was “hugely depressed” about resigning: “I was miserable about giving up the job I loved and working for the country I loved.”

On being abused in the street

“People come up and say all sorts of things… I’ve had some robust exchanges.”

On a second referendum

“I don’t think you can rule it out because we’re stuck … I’m not saying one will happen or should happen. I’m just saying that you can’t rule things out right now because you’ve got to find some way of unblocking the blockage.”

On prorogation

“I think proroguing parliament – pretending it doesn’t exist – I think that would be a bad thing.”

On no-deal

“I think it is a bad outcome. I very much hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it should be pursued.”

On Mr Johnson expelling rebel Tory MPs

“Taking the whip from hard-working Conservative MPs and sharp practices using prorogation of Parliament have rebounded. I didn’t support either of those things.”

More Brexit

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From left to right, must-read political memoirs from across the spectrum

Politicians are notorious for not giving straight answers. During the height of their career, they tend to be more interested in optics and spin than giving the public the full picture.

But once they are out of office, all can change. Political memoir is a genre that can be illuminating, funny and surprising.

There is hope in Westminster that David Cameron’s memoir, For the Record, out on Thursday, will be all three. Written from his shepherd’s hut after he quit as prime minister and an MP in the wake of the EU referendum result, the tome is expected to lift the lid on his regrets from his time in office – there are rumours that he will find time to name colleagues who let him down over Brexit, with both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove tipped to be in the firing line.

Political memoirs have a rich history. Reflecting the fact that this sphere has traditionally been male-heavy, the bulk are by men – but expect that to change in a few years’ time as women who have had frontline politics careers put pen to paper.

Here is a look at 20 that have stood out over the years, from across the spectrum.

Alan Clark Diaries

Perhaps the most honest account of the highs and – in this case – many lows of life as a mid-ranking government minister. This instalment of Alan Clark’s diaries gives readers a front-row seat behind the scenes of the Thatcher years, up to her ousting in a coup. The reason the diaries have become a classic of the genre is Clark’s style, marked out by his numerous character flaws. His frequent laments on his lack of promotion, bouts of snobbery and womanising ways make this an entertaining read, even if you wouldn’t want him on your dream dinner party guestlist.

Damian McBride Power Trip

The first rule for any good spin doctor is not to become the story. But when Gordon Brown’s spinner, Damian McBride, had to resign from No 10 in disgrace over a plot to smear top Tories, he responded by producing one of the most eye-opening accounts of life in politics. Opening with McBride clambering out of a window and jumping into a car boot to escape the media, he offers an account of his career from civil servant to one of the most despised men in politics.

Harriet Harman A Woman’s Work

Before writing this book, Harriet Harman had viewed political memoirs as “vanity projects”. But after she clocked the number of tomes being penned by men she’d shared the front bench with in the New Labour years, the first ever minister for women decided to fill a gap in the market. Rather than opt for Westminster titbits, this frank and reflective memoir focuses on the progress made for women in politics since Harman entered parliament in 1982. She documents her campaigning on childcare, domestic violence and increasing the number of female MPs.

William Waldegrave A Different Kind of Weather

The man behind the poll tax, who served under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, writes of a privileged life in which he never quite managed to break through as he had first imagined. As a pupil at Eton, he had written of his ambitions to be foreign secretary and then prime minister. It never was to be. Waldegrave comes across as likeable, taking readers with him as he gets to grips with the fact that he might not have been cut out to be top dog after all.

Harold Macmillan The Macmillan Diaries Vol II

Alongside the day job of being prime minister, Harold Macmillan also found time to write a regular diary. His witty and vivid prose means readers get unmatchable insight into events that took place under his watch during a seismic period for the UK – from the Cuban missile crisis to the Profumo affair. We are given an insight into the drain of his premiership as it goes on, but there are also lighter moments such as Macmillan’s amusement at an incident involving an Alsatian and a Daily Mail hack.

Margaret Thatcher The Downing Street Years

Margaret Thatcher’s memoir chronicling her 11 years as prime minister – from 1979 to 1990 – was the subject of much hype when it was first conceived. Her son, Mark, found himself accused of asking for too high a price and Thatcher eventually agreed a £3.5m deal for two books – equivalent to more than £9m today. At 862 pages, the first is no light read. Britain’s first female prime minister looks back on the Falklands War, the miners’ strike and the Brighton bomb attack. Critics say it has less personal reflection than traditional of the genre. However, there are amusing asides on various colleagues and statesmen.

Tony Blair  A Journey

Michael Gove was so taken by this memoir – in which Tony Blair looks back on his political career and 10 years in No 10 – that he keeps it by his bedside. Released in 2010, three years after Blair had left office, it lacks the candidness of some memoirs, instead focusing on the former PM pushing how he wants to be remembered. The sections on the Iraq War are particularly “on message”. However, there are parts that amuse and enlighten, from praise for Silvio Berlusconi to his own vulnerability, as he talks about the stilting effects of personal fear at the beginning of his premiership.

Edwina Currie Diaries 1987–1992

Edwina Currie’s diaries are best known not for their quality of prose but for revealing her four-year affair with John Major (1984-1988). After the book’s publication in 2002, John Major released a statement voicing his shame. The book itself shows the one-time junior health minister write of her unhappy marriage and her affair with Major – of whom she writes movingly. However, the part less discovered is of her political career – not least having to quit over a salmonella row – and how she stood out in her party at the time.

Hillary Clinton What Happened

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
book cover

‘“Deep breath. Feel the air fill my lungs. This is the right thing to do. The country needs to see that our democracy still works, no matter how painful this is. Breathe out. Scream later.” This is Hillary Clinton’s pep talk to herself at Donald Trump’s inauguration as the President of the United States. After losing the 2016 US presidential election in a surprise result, the first ever female presidential candidate from a major party’s account of the campaign asks: what happened? Particularly striking is Clinton’s account of the days immediately after her defeat, as she tries to come to terms with failing so publicly – friends suggest Xanax. However, the book suffers from the fact that Clinton (below) seems happier blaming others than examining her own role.

Peter Mandelson The Third Man

Of all the memoirs that emerged from the New Labour government, Peter Mandelson’s stands out for its mischievousness. During his time in power, Mandelson earned the nickname the Prince of Darkness for his Machiavellian ways. In this memoir, he sets the tone immediately – beginning by stating that he “once embodied New Labour’s reputation for spin and control freakery”. Tony Blair was said to be left livid by some of the disclosures of his feuding with his chancellor, Gordon Brown.

John Major The Autobiography

Autobiographies by former prime ministers can be hit and miss – revelations but bad prose or vice versa. This is an exception to the rule. Major is candid, frank and self-reflective in this look back at the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Unlike Tony Blair, he appears less conscious of crafting a media-friendly image. He writes of hitting the fast track as one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourites – appointed foreign secretary then chancellor – his against-the-odds election victory in 1992 and the (ongoing) Tory civil war over Europe.

Bill Clinton My Life

Publishing three years after he left office, the former American President recounts his life and political journey, from his youth in Arkansas through to his time in the White House – including reference to the Monica Lewisnksy affair and looming impeachment. It’s a conversational style – even if it is 957 pages. While Clinton is candid at points, self-reflection is often drowned out by self-justification.

Christine Keeler The Truth at Last

The Profumo affair defined politics in the 1960s and led to the downfall of Harold Macmillan’s government. At the centre of it all was 19-year-old Christine Keeler – a showgirl who became involved with John Profumo, the minister of war, and a Soviet diplomat. Her affairs were deemed a potential threat to national security. Keeler has written various accounts of the affair, but this book is her final word on the matter. Her claims are unverifiable for now – though the official papers ought to be released in 2046.

Chris Mullin  A View from the Foothills

“It is said that failed politicians make the best diarists,” writes Chris Mullins. “In which case I am in with a chance.” The long-serving Labour MP – who has held a handful of junior government roles – offers an amusing, insightful and revealing account of politics and government in his diary of the Blair years. His distance from the top levers of government allows Mullin to add insight and wry humour as he casts a cynical eye on the lows of junior office, taxpayer funds misspent and New Labour buzzwords.

Dalai Lama Freedom in Exile

The second memoir of the 14th Dalai Lama was published just after the anti-Communist revolutions of 1989 and is as political book as it is religious – on the freedom that Tibet offers to him away from Chinese communism. It came about from taped conversations the Dalai Lama had with Alexander Norman, an Oxford-trained scholar of the history of Tibet, in the 1980s. The book was written from the transcripts.

Leon Trotsky My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography

Leon Trotsky was assassinated in 1940 by a Stalin-issued agent with an ice axe. However, the Russian revolutionary and his brand of Marxism lives on in part through his memoir, penned in the first year of his exile in Turkey and published in 1930. Trotsky writes of his political journey through therevolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the Russian civil war. He also examines his struggle with Stalinism – writing of his disillusionment of the regime which followed Lenin.

Gina Miller Rise

Given that memoirs are traditionally written once a political career is over or an event is in the past, there are very few covering the period that is Brexit. Gina Miller’s is an exception. The philanthropist rose to notoriety when she challenged the British Government over its authority to implement Brexit without Parliamentary approval. In this book, she documents the abuse she received as a result of that decision – and also writes of her personal life, including having a child with learning difficulties.

Elizabeth Warren  A Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren is in the running to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in the 2020 US election. Here, she mixes memoir with policy – using the story of her small-town upbringing in Oklahoma to explain how she came to see the world and the best ways to use politics. She uses the story of her parent’s financial struggles and her family’s future to advance her personal politics of fighting a rigged system and financial institutions holding normal people back.

Bernard Donoughue Downing Street Diary With Harold Wilson in No 10

Bernard Donoughue worked for Harold Wilson in the 1970s, running the policy unit at No 10. He was privy to the so-called “Kitchen Cabinet” of advisers who made up Wilson’s inner circle, including the influential Marcia Williams. Donoughue had a front row seat through Wilson’s final premiership and offers intricate details of the leader’s struggle to unite his party, his drinking and his paranoia.

Alastair Campbell The Blair Years

As Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell earnt a reputation for being potty-mouthed, aggressive and meticulous in his media operation. For all of New Labour’s success, its slickness eventually came to be seen as a negative. In published extracts from Campbell’s diaries during the government years, Campbell records his personal anxiety and down days as he executed this strategy. The main drawback is that the extracts don’t tell the full story – Campbell admitted that he left out entries that he thought could be used to help Labour’s opponents.

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The best TV shows to watch this week, from Drake’s Top Boy reboot to a documentary on David Cameron

Top Boy

Friday 13 September, Netflix

Kane Robinson as Sully in Top Boy series 3
Rapper Kane Robinson, also known as Kano, plays Sully in Top Boy (Photo: Netflix)

The first two series of Channel 4 crime series Top Boy – about drug dealing and gang violence on a London estate – were billed as England’s answer to The Wire when they aired in 2011 and 2013. This revival, filmed after rapper Drake bought the production rights, brings back Dushane (Ashley Walters) and his rival Sully (Kane Robinson) for a new, stand-alone story. Additions to the cast include Simbi Ajikawo (aka rapper Little Simz) and David Orobosa Omoregie (Dave).

Unbelievable

Friday 13 September, Netflix

Kaitlyn Dever as Marie Adler in Unbelievable (Photo: Netflix)
Kaitlyn Dever as Marie Adler in Unbelievable (Photo: Netflix)

This harrowing true-crime miniseries, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, tells the story of Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever), an 18-year-old who is raped by a masked stranger in her home. The high-calibre cast includes Elizabeth Marvel and Bridget Everett as Marie’s foster parents, and Merritt Wever and Toni Colette as detectives who discover a similar case elsewhere.

Temple

Friday 13 September, 9pm, Sky One

Mark Strong as Daniel Milton in Temple on Sky One
Mark Strong opens a underground surgery in Temple (Photo: Sky)

A remake of the Norwegian crime series Valkyrien, set in a secret underground tunnel system beneath Temple tube station in central London. Mark Strong stars as Daniel, a tragedy-stricken surgeon who runs an off-the-grid medical centre below ground. Carice Van Houten (Game of Thrones) plays Anna, Daniel’s troubled medical researcher, and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty) is Lee, a dissatisfied transport worker.

Last Night of the Proms

Saturday 14 September, 7.15pm, BBC Two

Proms 2019 artwork by Loch Ness
Proms 2019 artwork by Loch Ness (Photo: BBC)

Live from the Royal Albert Hall, Katie Derham hosts proceedings from the world’s most celebrated classical music festival as it draws to a close. Highlights include a world premiere by Daniel Kidane, ballet from Manuel de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat and classics by Bizet and Verdi. Shifting to BBC1 for part two at 9pm, there are pieces by Offenbach, Grainger and Gershwin, before the traditional Last Night classics.

Cyprus Avenue

Sunday 15 September, 10pm, BBC Four

David Ireland’s award-winning play comes to television through a combination of shooting on location in Belfast and live capture of a performance at the Royal Court Theatre. A pitch-black comedy, Cyprus Avenue focuses on a Belfast loyalist (Stephen Rea) who, in the midst of a psychotic episode, mistakes his five-week-old granddaughter for Gerry Adams.

Crime and Punishment

Monday 16 September, 9pm, Channel 4

Prisoner with a freedom tattoo
Is the criminal justice system fit for purpose? (Photo: Channel 4)

This series takes a closer look at the criminal justice system and whether its archaic ways are still fit for purpose. In the first episode, we meet 28-year-old Paul Bousell, who is being held in prison without a fixed release date after robbing a shop at knife point. He is on an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentence, a controversial ruling that was abolished in 2012. However, there are still 3,429 IPP prisoners in the UK, each struggling to convince a parole board that they are safe to release.

Defending The Guilty

Tuesday 17 September, 10pm, BBC Two

Will Sharpe and Katherine Parkinson in Defending The Guilty
Will Sharpe plays a student barrister in new comedy Defending The Guilty (Photo: BBC)

Another legal-themed show, but this time designed to make you laugh. Will (Will Sharpe) is a fledgling barrister, thrown into the lion’s den of chambers, where his fellow pupils are desperate to prove their worth. Taken under the capable but rather cold wing of senior barrister Caroline (Katherine Parkinson, The IT Crowd), he finds himself navigating a world of politics and backstabbing. And that’s not even the clients he finds himself defending, every one of them as guilty as sin.

Japan with Sue Perkins

Wednesday 18 September, 9pm, BBC One

Sue Perkins trains with members of the Sumo Club at Asahi University
Sue Perkins trains with members of the Sumo Club at Asahi University (Photo: BBC)

Sue Perkins has really leaned in to travel presenting since leaving Bake Off behind and who can blame her. This time Japan beckons, so off we go to Tokyo, home to 36 million people and a booming tech industry. After spending a night in a “robot hotel”, Sue finds herself learning how to sumo wrestle with an all-female team and attending a wedding with only one participant. Away from the city, the presenter is put through her paces in “Hell Camp” – Japan’s toughest business school.

City on a Hill

Wednesday 18 September, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr & Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward in City On A Hill
City On A Hill is produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Photo: Sky Atlantic)

Set in 90s Boston, this 10-episode cop drama stars Kevin Bacon as a corrupt FBI veteran who teams up with the district attorney to clean up the city’s streets. It is loosely based on the policing initiative known as “The Boston Miracle”, which resulted in a ceasefire across the city. A second season of the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon-producedshow has already been greenlit.

The Cameron Years

Thursday 19 September, 9pm, BBC One

David Cameron
The first part of the BBC’s David Cameron documentary airs tonight (Photo: BBC)

Broadcast to coincide with the release of David Cameron’s memoir, this two-part documentary explores the political career of the maligned former prime minister. Going back to 2013, the first episode looks at the Conservative infighting which prompted him to hold a referendum on EU membership – a decision the British political system is still grappling with today.

More from TV

 

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Ashcroft’s life of Rees-Mogg, a serious politician mistaken for a character out of P.G.Wodehouse

Jacob’s Ladder: The Unauthorised Biography of Jacob Rees-Mogg by Michael Ashcroft

All future biographers of Jacob Rees-Mogg will be in Michael Ashcroft’s debt. Never before has so much material been assembled from such a wealth of sources about the first 50 years of the man appointed this summer by the new Prime Minister to serve as Leader of the House of Commons.

That event occurs three pages from the end of this book, so here is an account unaffected by the triumphs and disasters with which its subject will meet in high office.

Rees-Mogg is often depicted as a figure who has stepped straight from the pages of P.G.Wodehouse, a comic turn rather than a serious politician. When he was filmed the other day almost prone on the Treasury Bench, this was regarded as either funny or disgraceful, but certainly not as serious.

His fans see him as an endlessly amusing rebuke to everything that has happened to the Conservative Party since 1965, and applaud him for upholding sartorial standards which almost every other Tory has allowed to slip, with even Sir Nicholas Soames yielding to the modern age by appearing in the House in what look like trainers.

Rees-Mogg’s critics cannot bear him, and perhaps never will, especially as in their eyes he is in on the wrong side of the Europe debate. They deride him as a bad joke, an anachronistic toff, a ludicrous plutocrat who cannot understand how ordinary people think and feel about things.

In the course of Ashcroft’s account, the inadequacy of both these accounts soon becomes apparent. For although this biography is crammed with “well fancy that” moments, many of which are wonderfully amusing, it is not composed in the manner of a comedy.

The style owes nothing to Wodehouse, or to Evelyn Waugh, neither of whom would have written, “the EU question was now circling British politics rather like a shark which has smelled blood”.

The tone is journalistic, as when Ashcroft says of another character, “his upbringing got off to a devastating start as a result of being interrupted by tragedy”. Expert attempts are made in this book to establish the net worth of its subject, a quintessentially journalistic inquiry.

And the greatest influence on Rees-Mogg is rightly identified as a journalist: his own father, William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times.

The father could write an eloquent and authoritative editorial on any subject in an astonishingly short time when needed. The son possesses the same ability, but produces his verdict in the form of a speech.

And Rees-Mogg the younger is quite unafraid of the company of journalists. Indeed, he seems to revel in it. Among modern politicians, the ability to relax in the company of journalists is not as widespread as one might expect.

The anxious, cautious careerist – a type widely found at Westminster – regards the press as suspect, interested only in discovering embarrassing stories which might terminate the career in question.

From his boyhood onwards, Rees-Mogg has treated the press as his ally, and has understood that what it needs is vivid and amusing copy, the more outspoken the better.

At the age of 11, he sprang to media attention by addressing, as a shareholder, the annual general meeting of Lonrho. Soon he was being interviewed by Jean Rook of The Daily Express, known as The First Lady of Fleet Street, and was telling her:

“I like playing with money. I love the stuff; I want more and more of it… I’ve always loved money as money, not for what it buys. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know the answer to it.”

Here was a child who knew the value of talking the story up. In 1982, at the age of 12, he made his first television appearance, during which (the presenter recalls) “he wasn’t intimidated at all”, and grasped that the point of the programme, during which he is seen meeting his stockbroker, is for him “to look bossy and like I’m telling the stockbroker what to do”.

Here is a media performer of exceptional precocity, who learned at least part of his art from his father, and knew that if you wanted people to pay attention, it paid to turn the volume up. He has remained a prolific performer, who has recently recorded over 30 episodes of the Moggcast for ConHome.

The actor Dominic West, an exact contemporary at Eton, said in a recent interview that Rees-Mogg was

“exactly the same as now; he’s never changed, which is both admirable and dodgy. Despite the sober exterior, he’s a showbiz tart.”

This is not quite fair. Rees-Mogg also has a sober interior. Like his father, he is a devout Roman Catholic.

And at Oxford, and indeed subsequently, Rees-Mogg was neither louche nor drunk. In a previous “unauthorised biography”, Ashcroft related a scandalous and unauthenticated story about David Cameron and a pig’s head.

These pages are chaste by comparison. Rees-Mogg got to know Daniel Hannan and Mark Reckless at university, and in 1990 was one of the first to join their Oxford Campaign for an Independent Britain.

Bertie Wooster would not have done that. Nor did Cameron. Rees-Mogg was from an early stage a convinced eurosceptic.

Simon Hoare, now the MP for North Dorset, met him at the Oxford Union:

“We happened to be sitting next to each other by fluke and fell into conversation, and that’s where it all started. He’d obviously been very active in the Conservative Party, as had I. We sort of hit it off. We were both Tories, both Catholics, so we had that in common, and you have this rather incongruous friendship, if you will. I’d gone to a state Catholic school in Cardiff, and here I was, the first of my family at university, becoming great mates with someone who had an entirely different background.

“There’s not a snobbish bone in his body. He will talk to anybody and always with the same degree of politeness and charm, even if they’re hurling abuse at him or pouring great praise on him. He’s got that very even temper.”

Rees-Mogg was for some years innocently employed getting money in the City and Hong Kong. He stood as a Tory candidate in Central Fife in 1997 and in The Wrekin in 2001, on both occasions doing far more than the bare minimum of work, but was not able to get into Parliament until 2010, for North-East Somerset.

His old-fashioned manner has long led him to be underestimated. While Cameron was party leader, Rees-Mogg was regarded as an impediment to modernisation.

But for those with eyes to see, Rees-Mogg was a rising star. As Ashcroft points out, Tim Montgomerie suggested in 2012 on ConHome that in 2020, Boris Johnson might be Prime Minister, and Rees-Mogg Leader of the House.

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Trade unionists should not believe the TUC drivel that Brexit will impact workers’ rights

It’s become a mantra, endlessly repeated by Remainer unions: “Workers must not pay the price of Brexit.” What price would that be? And how about acknowledging the price of staying in the EU?

On 6th July 2017, Michel Barnier, the EU Brexit negotiator, addressed the EU’s Economic and Social Committee. His words were noted and passed on to unions in Britain by the TUC delegate to the committee under a title saying that Barnier ‘spells out the truth’ about Brexit.

Barnier’s address, wrote Unite’s Martin Mayer with doe-eyed devotion, was ‘clinical in its analysis’ and ‘impressive in its clarity’. And he dubbed as ‘fatuous’ Theresa May’s statement that “Brexit means Brexit”. The TUC’s love affair with the EU was still going strong, despite the referendum.

At the meeting Judy McKnight, ex-TUC General Council and ex-General Secretary of the prison officers’ union – described as ‘Leader of UK Workers Group members’ although she is and was actually retired – repeated the worn old refrain that “workers must not pay the price of Brexit”. 

The TUC was campaigning back then for Britain to stay in the Single Market for as long as possible, under a transitional agreement, to ‘keep workers’ rights safe’. Now it has hardened its stance, calling for Britain to remain in both the Single Market and the Customs Union.

The Fire Brigades Union, for example, which in June suspended executive member Paul Embery for two years for speaking out in favour of Brexit, parrots every Project Fear statement put out by the Treasury. The union attacks the World Trade Organisation for being ‘neoliberal’ – but of course fails to say that the EU and the USA were trying to negotiate the TTIP treaty because the WTO isn’t neoliberal enough.

Nowhere do these euro-enthusiasts talk about the fact that the EU constitution sets all the key principles of neoliberalism in stone, effectively unchangeable – the free movement of goods, services, capital and ‘persons’ (this includes companies). That’s something that the bankers and transnational capitalists haven’t managed to get into a single national constitution outside the EU, not even the USA. In particular, they see the European Court of Justice as the guardian of workers’ rights. Yet it is anything but that.

Successive ECJ judgements have made it perfectly clear that the rights to free movement – of goods, labour, services and capital – come first. The right to strike in pursuance of what it calls social policy (jobs, pay, conditions, pensions) cannot, according to the Viking judgement, ‘automatically override’ these fundamental rights. 

More fundamentally, said ECJ Advocate General Poiares Maduro on 23rd May 2007, “the possibility for a company to relocate to a Member State where its operating costs will be lower is pivotal to the pursuit of effective intra Community trade.” There’s the EU, in a nutshell: it’s a fundamental right for a company to move from country to country in search of lower and lower labour costs.

The EU’s fundamental rights are all about the market. It’s a far cry from ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ or ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’. In effect, the EU acts as a superstate whose constitution embodies the freedom of capital and capitalists in a way unheard of in any other.

The first price that workers pay is that they must allow outsourcing and privatisation of national industries and services.

The second is that they cannot strike to stop work being outsourced to a cheaper country. The ECJ made the reasons for that very clear: “Without the rules on freedom of movement and competition it would be impossible to achieve the Community’s fundamental aim of having a functioning common market.”

And of course, there is the cost of the free movement of labour. It’s beyond doubt that it has hit unskilled workers in Britain particularly hard. It has lowered pay rates, and according even to the official Migration Advisory Committee, damaged the job prospects of lower skilled workers when the labour market is slack. 

It’s not just the unskilled. Without free movement how could the government have erected the massive tuition fees barrier to the training of nurses, midwives and other health professionals while understaffing runs through hospitals like a plague? And the laws of supply and demand are clearly operating in other areas too, such as academic pay.

The TUC not only backs this free movement but, astonishingly, thinks that Britain’s migration policy should be handled on our behalf by Brussels. “It is… more effective for migration flows to be managed through EU legislation rather than member states creating patch-work laws to deal with the issue”, it told a government inquiry into EU powers in 2013.

The odd thing about the TUC’s blather on ‘workers’ rights’ is that you might expect trade unions, of all bodies, to know that it is first and foremost through the existence and activity of unions that workers can establish and defend any rights that they have.

There is nothing – not a single sentence – in the draconian Trade Union Act 2016 that runs counter to EU law, nor in the even worse bits that David Cameron’s Government was forced to drop as the Bill made its way through Parliament.

Items that would not have bothered the EU included the proposed requirement for pickets to give their names to the police – an idea that Conservative MP David Davis objected to violently. “What is this? This isn’t Franco’s Britain”, he said, referring to the 40-year fascist dictatorship in Spain.

Yet the EU is supposed to guarantee ‘workers’ rights’!

And when collective action fails or is absent, the only recourse is often to an employment tribunal. Yet when the Government introduced huge fees for employment tribunals in 2013, and Unison brought a legal challenge, it was primarily to English law based on Magna Carta and enshrined in 1297 that the Supreme Court turned in 2017 to rule the fees unlawful. 

Back in 2015, Unite published a particularly biased leaflet called What has Europe ever done for us? (incorrectly equating Europe, a geographical fact, with the EU, a political construction). Among its outrageous claims was the oft-repeated notion that the EU ‘is also responsible for 3.5 million jobs in the UK’. The implication is that we would lose these jobs with Brexit. This is utter nonsense, though some politicians have said the same thing, and keep on saying it.  

Claims that three million or more jobs depend on Britain being in the EU appeared following the publication of a report by Dr Martin Weale in 2000 for the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. 

But the report did not say that these jobs would be lost if we left the EU. Far from it. It suggested that withdrawal may actually be good for us. It was the fault of politicians like Nick Clegg, John Prescott and Stephen Byers that the findings of this academic report were twisted. 

Weale was furious at this distortion, describing it as ‘pure Goebbels’ and saying, “in many years of academic research I cannot recall such a wilful distortion of the facts.”

What, then, does the EU offer workers in the way of rights? Its defenders talk admiringly about working hours legislation – but what’s to admire? 

It is true that the EU brought in its Working Time Directive in the 1990s, incorporated into British law in 1998. But look closer. Brussels mandated a minimum holiday of 20 days – including public holidays. British law states that the minimum is 20 days excluding public holidays, making our minimum 28 days.

So, any government could cut statutory holidays by a full eight days without contravening any EU law. Not that you would hear this from the TUC, which continues to push out stories talking about, for example, 7 million people’s holiday pay being at risk.

“There is no guarantee that [the government after Brexit] would keep paid holiday entitlements at their current level, or at all,” claimed the TUC in a typical act of gratuitous scaremongering, turning a blind eye to the lower holiday pay rights in most of the EU. 

British maternity leave is another area where TUC alarmists have been trying to sow suspicion. Yet British law mandates up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, with Statutory Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks. EU law? Pay and leave of up to 14 weeks.

And then there is health and safety. The TUC acknowledges that the government says it will transfer all existing health and safety protections from EU law to British law. But it adds, “there are no guarantees for what happens afterwards” – as if permanent future guarantees were possible.

“It should be written into the [Brexit] deal that the UK and EU will meet the same standards, for both existing rights and future improvements,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary. 

This really is fatuous. It would leave Britain unable to improve its health and safety legislation unless the EU agreed to do the same, necessitating a negotiation with 27 member states. It would give Brussels sovereignty over workplace legislation in Britain, which is no kind of Brexit at all.

Back in 1988 the TUC waved the white flag and assumed that the only improvements in legislative protection for workers would come from Brussels. It’s still waving that flag, even though the EU itself acknowledges on its own website that “Responsibility for employment and social policy lies primarily with national governments.”

The truth is that our rights as workers have always existed only so far as workers have been prepared to fight for them and defend them. As long as we tolerate the employing class and the capitalist system, any rights we have will always be ‘at risk’. 

But for now, the urgent risk is that we fail to finish the job of the 2016 referendum. Nothing is so imminently threatening to the wellbeing of workers in Britain than allowing the independence process to be derailed.

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The Duke abandons the Tories and Grieve goes for Cummings

The Duke of Wellington has quit the field. The shocking news that he has left the Conservative Party ran round the Palace of Westminster during the afternoon.

His famous ancestor said the test of a great general was to know when to retreat, and to dare to do it. In politics, the Iron Duke concluded that in order to avoid a civil war in Ireland, or even in England, it was his disagreeable duty to persuade his fellow peers to accept various measures to which he and they had hitherto been implacably opposed, including Catholic emancipation and the Great Reform Bill.

The ninth Duke, who served as a Conservative MEP and is now one of the 92 hereditary members of the House of Lords, does not appear to apply this doctrine of precautionary retreat to Brexit. He may, of course, think public opinion is no longer flowing in favour of leaving the EU.

But Tories of a traditional frame of mind cannot be happy to have driven the Duke out of the party.

Nor can Tories of a traditional outlook be delighted to find Dominic Grieve intensifying his attacks on the Government, by demanding the release of all correspondence about the prorogation of Parliament sent or received by Dominic Cummings and eight other advisers “in both written and electronic form”.

Dominic versus Dominic may well drag on as long as Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, so that at the end, no one can remember how it all began.

Grieve spoke of “compelling evidence” that “trust is breaking down”, said that to prorogue until 14th October is “unprecedented” in modern times and “startling”, and argued that “the crisis” which is “engulfing us” makes “continued sitting absolutely essential”.

He drew attention to inconsistencies in the reasons the Government has given for prorogation, and pointed out that it was not David Cameron but Tony Blair who introduced the September sitting.

So Boris Johnson’s description of Cameron as “a girly swot” for doing this was misapplied. Grieve suggested the Prime Minister wished, by contrast, to gain a reputation for “manly idleness”.

A joke, or at least a shaft of satire. But for the most part, Grieve was in deadly earnest, and that was the most distressing thing about his attack. He does not believe a word the Prime Minister says.

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, rose and asked Grieve, who used to occupy that office, what legal right the Government has to demand that advisers hand over their private emails and telephone communications?

But such questions, though justified, can do nothing to repair the breakdown of trust.

Simon Hoare (Con, North Dorset) said he had received no correspondence from his constituents, no matter what their views are of Brexit, saying “I think prorogation is the right thing to do”.

He added, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, that “the legislative needs of Northern Ireland are being ridden roughshod over”.

In Hoare’s view, the Government needs to show “humility”, as “we haven’t got the muscularity” needed to ram unpopular measures through.

This lack of a majority was soon illustrated, for the Government lost the Grieve motion by 311 votes to 302.

The Speaker had earlier announced that he will stand down on Thursday 31st October. This produced laughter, but he then allowed the tributes to him to go on for far too long, the gulf between Labour admiration and Tory disdain becoming more and more embarrassingly apparent, after which he himself attacked a Tory frontbencher – it was hard to tell whether the target was James Duddridge or Graham Stuart – with shameless vehemence: “Quite frankly young man you can like it or lump it.”

This was demeaning. Some of us were told when young never to argue with the umpire, but in those days the umpire was a respectable figure.

Bercow has been a far better umpire than his unfortunate predecessor was. But he has never set an example of good behaviour.

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Jonathan Clark: Brexit. Is democracy at risk?

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

Observers agree that this is the most impassioned episode in British politics for over a century. But it has been so under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson alike. The last alone is not to blame. Why, then, is it so bitter? We ought to be able to debate whether GDP will be slightly higher or slightly lower in 15 years if we leave or if we remain in the EU without expulsions, mutual denunciations, threats, and lawfare. Other things are at stake, far beyond economists’ guesswork. At least two are at issue, for the Brexit crisis is at its heart a proxy war.

The first is democracy itself, for two conceptions of it are widely held in the UK, representative and direct. In 2019 they collide. What are they?

Representative democracy assumes that Parliament once seized sovereignty from the King, and the Commons then seized it from the Lords; or, alternatively, that if the People once had sovereignty, they surrendered it completely and for all time to members of the Commons, who, collectively, now have absolute authority. Being wise and restrained patricians, MPs rule in the national interest. This theory looks more unpersuasive the more one explores it.

Direct democracy assumes that sovereignty resides with autonomous individuals thanks to God’s gift or to Nature – thoughtful individuals who know all they need to know in order to govern, and who exercise their authority just as they please via universal suffrage. Again, this theory is not wholly plausible. Which of the two predominates is likely to depend on practice more than on theoretical argument.

Practice depends on logistics, and these continually develop. Representative democracy seemed obvious in days when communication was slow and expensive. Members of the Commons might visit their constituencies seldom. The franchise was restricted, newspapers reported little, the actions of most MPs at Westminster were seldom in the public eye. Members were unpaid, so normally had to be rich: they were seldom inclined to defer to the poor. But all that was long ago.

From the mid-1990s, and increasingly every year, the internet has transformed everything. For the first time, it is possible to conduct opinion polls in a shorter time than it takes MPs to file through the division lobbies. For the first time, I can watch my MP speak live in the Commons, or in a recording. I can monitor her every vote. I can email her almost instantaneously (I have even exchanged brief emails with one distinguished MP while he was in a debate). Thankfully, my MP is admirable, in her labours both in Parliament and in her constituency. But for voters who differ from their MPs, the potential for active involvement is far greater than ever before.

Kenneth Clarke speaks for the old school of Parliamentarians in insisting that the referendum of 2016 was merely advisory. But he is out of date. The European Union Referendum Act 2015, which made the arrangements, nowhere said that. Nor did the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. No legislation has ever provided that votes cast in general elections are merely advisory either. On the contrary, the electorate decides things.

We can only deduce the advisory status of referendums by implication, from the premise ‘Parliament is sovereign’. But no Act of Parliament can establish parliamentary sovereignty, any more than Kenneth Clarke can rise into the air by pulling on his shoelaces. Since the People elect members of the Commons directly, by binding votes, and of the Lords indirectly (via elected members of the Commons), it might plausibly be argued that the People are sovereign.

Yet representative democracy is widely championed, and here lies the second great point at issue: a culture war, over what might be called the recent hegemony of social democratic values. It was not so in 1962 when Anthony Sampson published his famous Anatomy of Britain; it shaped the subsequent understandings of ‘The Establishment’ as a closed social circle of the public school and Oxbridge educated who staffed the boardrooms, Parliament, the judiciary and the church.

But a wind of change has swept over Britain as well as over Sampson’s beloved South Africa. The public schools and Oxbridge are still there, but captured for other purposes. Rank derived from birth and class now derives from style and political correctness. The old boy networks are replaced by the luvvie networks. Sampson himself (Westminster and Christ Church) became a Social Democrat during the 1980s.

Set aside the party label; its opponents perceive a state of mind shared by larger numbers of people. They are the commentariat. They allegedly run the media, the universities, the civil service, the judiciary. They are not, indeed, socialist: that would be too uncool an ideology for the twenty-first century. But they are not democrats either, and instinctively reject the outcome of the largest democratic exercise in British history, the referendum of 2016. To them this is ‘populism’, the opposite of themselves.

In this sense, say their opponents with ever clearer definition, social democrats are ‘anywheres’ rather than ‘somewheres’: they have no particular loyalty to a country, let alone Bolsover or Sunderland. They encourage mass migration and multiculturalism. They have places in the sun. They countenance divorce, sex change, and gay marriage. They are secularists who favour religions that are loud against religious establishments. The EU suits them perfectly. Its Roman Law tradition fits their world view, since it works down from grand statements of principle; England’s common law tradition worked up, from specific concrete entitlements. In their eyes, social democrats champion correct, modern, enlightened values. These entail membership of the EU.

Against this perceived social democratic hegemony have developed two great protests: Momentum, and the Brexit movement. To simplify, Momentum wants real socialism; Brexit wants real democracy. They can only achieve either by championing an old ideal that now becomes a new one: the People are sovereign.

Both these conceptions of democracy are plausible, but flawed. They have historic force, but they are contradictory. A collision was inevitable sooner or later. What better ground on which to fight than the UK’s membership of the EU?

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Interview. McLoughlin – Hunt’s former campaign Chairman, lifelong One Nation Tory – backs Johnson’s suspensions

Sir Patrick McLoughlin has defended the Prime Minister’s right to withdraw the whip from Tory MPs who refused last night to support the Government.

McLoughlin, who chaired Jeremy Hunt’s leadership campaign and is the only person ever to have served both as Conservative Party Chairman and as Chief Whip, said “Leadership is about making some very tough decisions” and Tory MPs cannot “just carry on ad nauseam debating this issue”.

He said with deep emotion during this interview, carried out yesterday morning so before last night’s Government defeat, that “I just don’t think we can carry on like we have been doing”.

He added that what is happening to One Nation Toryism is “terrible”, and the party must not become a Brexit party, but in order “not to become a Brexit party we have to deliver Brexit.”

McLoughlin defended David Cameron against the charge that calling the referendum was just a way to fix the problems of  the Conservative Party. He pointed out that Tony Blair and Jack Straw had previously raised the idea of a referendum, the Liberal Democrats had committed themselves to one in their 2010 manifesto, and Labour as well as the Conservatives voted for the referendum which was actually held.

ConHome: “You are the only person to have been both Chief Whip and Party Chairman?”

McLoughlin: “I think I probably am. I don’t think anybody else has been punished like that.”

ConHome: “What’s your view of the Government’s proposal to withdraw the whip from those who don’t support it today?”

McLoughlin: “I regret very much that it’s come to this. But the truth is that if the Prime Minister decides something is a matter of confidence, having just got the overwhelming endorsement from his party to lead it, then I think he has the right to do that.

“Leadership is about making some very tough decisions. I think this is a very tough decision and I wish it wasn’t necessary.

“So I don’t come to it with a sort of ‘Yes, let’s do this, bring it on.’ It’s very much a regret, and it’s very much with sorrow, because some of the people we’re talking about have been good, loyal Conservatives.

“But I just don’t think we can carry on like we have been doing. That is part of the problem.”

ConHome: “Friends of ours like Alistair Burt make the point that ‘we’ve been through the lobbies three times to support this deal, and there are all these characters who haven’t, including the Cabinet ministers who abstained on key votes and helped to bring about the deterioration in discipline.’

“They’ve got a point, haven’t they?”

McLoughlin: “Yes they have got a point. I won’t publicly go, but there are some people who I find absolutely staggering, what they’re calling for.

“But the job for the Prime Minister is not necessarily to look at individuals. And sometimes life is tough. But he is taking the position that we promised…

“All these people voted to implement Article 50. And, you know, we’ve had a six-month delay which cost us very dear. They’re now talking about another three-month delay.

“Well I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next three months that’s not happened in the last six months.

“And I just think we’ve got to move on from this. I’m sorry we’re leaving the European Union. I still remain sorry we’re leaving the European Union.

“But we gave the people a chance in the referendum. And I just would like to say one other thing as well.

“Everybody says the reason David Cameron did this was to try to a) thwart Farage and b) to reunite the Conservative Party.

“It is just worth remembering that in 2010 the Liberal Democrats had an In/Out referendum in their manifesto, and when we actually moved to the referendum the referendum was supported by the Labour Party as well as by the Conservative Party.

“It was never just in my view a ‘try and fix the Tory Party’ scenario.”

ConHome: “When the whip’s removed, the tradition is you remove it on a vote of confidence, and without trying to peer too far into the future, if the Government loses, do you expect the PM to go immediately for a general election if he can, or wait for Second Reading, or wait for the Lords to get its teeth into the Bill, or what?”

McLoughlin: “Well ‘I don’t know’ is the answer to that.”

ConHome: “I’m just trying to establish if it’s really a vote of confidence or not, even if the Fixed-term Parliaments Act…”

McLoughlin: “Well I think the Prime Minister can say I regard this as a vote of confidence in my leadership, and that’s what he’s doing.

“It is not in the technical sense of the word a motion of confidence, as required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

“But it is a motion of confidence, because the Prime Minister says ‘I regard this as a motion of confidence’.”

ConHome: “I mean presumably without encouraging you to speak up for the deselection of endless numbers of Conservative MPs, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander here.

“And if he comes back with a deal, and it’s opposed by some Conservative MPs, he would be entitled to remove the whip from them, would he not?”

McLoughlin: “One step at a time. We’re dealing with today at the moment, and tomorrow will be a different day. The logic of that, which is what your article basically says today, is that would be the case.

“I think one’s got to be always cautious about using these things, and I’m sure that a lot of thought has gone into it, and I hope they’ve considered all the consequences.

“Because as I say I very much regret it has come to this. But I also don’t think we can just carry on ad nauseam debating this issue, which we seem to have done, some people say for the last three years, actually it’s been more like the last four years, following the 2015 election when the referendum was first promised.”

ConHome: “If a very senior member of the party is reselected by their association, as the former Chancellor was last night, but they vote against the Government today, they could be finding that reselection vote is in vain, could they not?”

McLoughlin: “That’s my understanding, but I know Philip Hammond seems to have a different view.”

ConHome: “Is there going to be a general election this year, and if so, when?”

McLoughlin: “I think it’s looking very likely there will be a general election, and I only know from what everybody is saying, October 14th, a Monday, which would enable the Prime Minister, whoever he is, to go to the [European] Council that weekend.”

ConHome: “Though that’s not been said on the record.”

McLoughlin: “The only thing I know about this election, unlike the last election, is what I’m reading in the newspapers.”

ConHome: “Just as a former Chief Whip who’s used to watching the Opposition the whole time, what do you think the Labour Party’s going to do if it comes to a general election vote?

“Because part of the point of having an election before October 31st, if there is one, is Labour can’t say ‘We’re not voting for this, because if we do there’ll be a no deal Brexit’. That excuse has been removed from them, so they’re going to have to vote for this.”

McLoughlin: “I would have thought so. I don’t understand this new nuance that somehow we should wait until after 31st October.

“Because if there was an election on 14th October, then that allows for the Prime Minister, whoever he is, to go to the European Council on the 17th.”

ConHome: “And if the election comes before Brexit, presumably the Brexit Party will stand as many candidates as they can, arguing you can’t trust the Tories.”

McLoughlin: “Well look, all that we can do, if the Brexit Party stand in every seat, which they may well do, they may take some votes.

“But it’s a bit like at the last general election, when everybody thought the UKIP vote would come to the Conservatives. It didn’t wholeheartedly come to the Conservatives, it was quite mixed, and in some areas it did, you know the Mansfields and the places like that.

“I remember talking to you after that election, pointing out we’d won some seats that we haven’t won for 70 years.

“So look, this next election will not be like the 2017 election and it won’t be like the 2015 election. No elections are. They’re all individual entities, fought very much as things are then.

“And this will be a very quick election. The 2017 election was too long.”

ConHome: “How comfortable do you feel about where the party is now?

“If there’s an election, going in on a manifesto that’s pro-Brexit, possibly, actually, with a reasonably good relationship with the Brexit Party, Leave voters might find this prospectus attractive, but there would be tremendous problems with former Remain voters, London, the south.

“You’ve been a One Nation Tory all your working life, and you’re seeing that bit of the Tory coalition in peril.”

McLoughlin: “It’s terrible. It is not a nice scenario. I’m not doing any of this with glee.

“But I also think that governments have to govern, and you know, that’s what we said in the referendum, what we would do, and I don’t think we can rejudge that.

“I famously used that line at the Cabinet meeting, which David Cameron’s used since, saying I’ve always wanted to live in Utopia – the only trouble is I’d wake up and find the European Union was still there.

“But I also respect the right of the Prime Minister to say, ‘We’ve fought an election, that election was on leaving on the 31st October, I’m determined to deliver that.'”

ConHome: “How do you think he’s doing? As Jeremy Hunt’s former campaign chairman.”

McLoughlin: “I think he’s doing very well. He’s trying not only to address the Brexit issue, but he’s also trying to address the other issues that needed addressing anyway.

“Such as education funding and also what he’s saying about the Health Service and other issues.

“So I think what you see in Boris is someone who does actually want to move on to the other agendas as well, and perhaps he feels we’re being sucked into one issue and one issue alone.

“I said a few months ago the Conservative Party must not become a Brexit party. I definitely believe that. But for us not to become a Brexit party we have to deliver Brexit.”

ConHome: “That suggests you think under the previous regime all collective discipline by the end had completely broken down.”

McLoughlin: “I wouldn’t say all discipline. I almost think, looking at this now in hindsight, and with the benefit of hindsight, I almost think we had to go through that to get where we are.

“And don’t forget, Theresa May became Prime Minister because everybody else faded away. That’s how she became Prime Minister. And I think she carried out the job with incredible dignity, and I will never criticise Theresa, because I think she was trying to do an incredibly difficult job.”

ConHome: “How is she now? I saw you talking to her yesterday.”

McLoughlin: “I saw her briefly yesterday. She seemed fine. I think when you consider for nine years she’d either been Home Secretary or Prime Minister, with all the constraints that has on life, I look at Philip and I look at Theresa and I think they are people who are of the Conservative Party, were the Conservative Party, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for her.”

ConHome: “You’ve already touched on David Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum. It was in fact disastrous, would you say?”

McLoughlin: “No, because I think again, that is something we probably needed to do… Blair was the first person to start talking about referendums, Blair and Straw.

“So this isn’t something that DC woke up one morning and thought, ‘This’ll sort everything out.’ It rarely does.”

ConHome: “You are going to stand again, aren’t you?”

McLoughlin: “I very much hope to stand again.”

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Ryan Bourne: In America, public spending conservatism is being lost. It could happen in Britain.

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Austerity is over. Theresa May told us so after the 2017 election, and again at the Conservative Party Conference last year. Philip Hammond tried restraining her from a blitz of high-profile spending announcements. Yet Team Johnson has now picked up the baton anyway. The spending review due today from Sajid Javid will reportedly confirm significant money injections for schools, hospitals and the police. The Prime Minister said Monday it will be “the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade.”

Restraining government spending was always said to be a temporary deficit repair tool, of course. Those “tough choices,” added to net tax hikes, have helped bring down the budget deficit to just 1.3 per cent of GDP, from a gargantuan 9.9 per cent in 2010. Once near-balance, a spending squeeze was never envisaged to continue year after year. Despite Nick Timothy’s fear of libertarians under the bed, no recent Conservative leader has been ideologically committed to shrink the size and scope of government. Absent “thinking the unthinkable,” one eventually must release the spending grip given voter demands for high-quality services.

And yet…the zeal with which the Tories have turned heel on their spending narrative is surprising. Whatever one’s view on the efficacy or composition of “cuts”, they were central to the party’s offer through 2016, including the 2015 election win. Balancing the books was said to be about unburdening the next generation from dumping more debt on top of the iceberg associated with an ageing population. Any intergenerational justice message has now gone the way of the Titanic.

For the Government is not promising gradual targeted spending increases in these areas – a natural uplift from a reset baseline after years of restraint. No, proposed hikes in education funding would virtually reverse any real schools’ spending cuts over the past decade. May’s extra money for the NHS is a big step-change too. The spending review is celebrated as the “biggest, most generous spending review since the height of Tony Blair’s New Labour,” no less – a far cry from denouncing that era’s profligacy. In one swoop, the Treasury has undercut its long-held opposition to raising borrowing and junked the idea that public service reform trumps showering public services with money.

Javid attempts to thread the needle by arguing that more spending is still consistent with keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio on a shallow downward path. That maybe true. But a stated goal of policy was always to balance the books overall, even if George Osborne and David Cameron continually pushed back the deadline. A former Treasury fiscal policy director now says that borrowing will in fact start rising again, and soon be above two per cent of GDP. Manageable, yes – but a clear change in direction.

The public discourse effects of this reversal should worry fiscal conservatives. Cameron and Osborne’s consistent messaging helped entrench two crucial contours in discussions about government spending. First, that there was no free lunch (every Labour proposal for years was met with the question “how will you pay for it?”) Second, that what you did with the money (the organisation of public services) was as important as spending levels. After years of Tony Blair’s money throwing, the public were receptive to such apparently grown-up thinking. Now, both those claims-cum-restraints that ensnared Labour have been removed.

If large, real increases in education funding are synonymous with better schools, as Tories imply, Labour can coherently ask “why did you cut real funding beforehand?” Such corrective spending hikes look an admission of a past mistake. Doubly so if funded through borrowing that was previously considered intolerable.

Couching this as “an end to austerity” brings similar peril. These particular decisions don’t imply “we are going to return to affordable spending increases consistent with a low deficit.” If large spending hikes for education are seen as reversing austerity, then obvious questions arise: what about local authority funding? Prisons? Criminal justice? Have these not suffered more from the pain you admit was damaging?

Of course, Brexit is the important context here. It is sucking oxygen from normal economic debates – one reason why the logjam needs to be broken. A slowing economy, induced in part by uncertainty, means an obsessive near-term public finance focus is probably unwise. The very process of extrication requires budget flexibility, not least because the underlying public finances could look very different when future trade relations crystallise.

But all this would be a case for relaxing or suspending fiscal targets through the choppy Brexit seas, not bold new announcements.

No, it’s difficult not to conclude there’s not something bigger happening here. Much of the party has embraced a simplistic “left behind” narrative of the Brexit vote – that it was a cry for investment in public services. They are egged on by former government advisors, armed with polling, who see an opportunity to steer the party towards a “bigger government” vision for the party they’ve always spoiled for.

Academic evidence in fact shows new Brexit voters affiliating with the Tories quickly adopt traditional Tory views on other issues. There’s no need to pander. Yet when you see John Redwood railing against austerity, you realise how strong this view about the changing party voter base has set.

Whether Johnson shares that interpretation is less clear. Perhaps he sees funding boosts now in three major non-Brexit policy areas as short-term deck clearing before an election. Polling strength from these “good news stories” might even firm up pressure on the EU and rebel MPs on his central task. If it helps finally deliver Brexit, many of us will accept fiscal jam tomorrow.

I want to believe this, but the noises aren’t encouraging. And living in the US, where Republicans have gone from a Tea Party anti-spending force to delivering unprecedented deficits for peacetime, in just a decade, I’ve observed just how easily spending conservatism is lost.

Here, it started with big spending increases on priorities too. Republicans cut taxes, yes, but huge cash increases for defence were delivered, greased by money for some Democrat priorities. Once that dam opened though, the money poured. July’s budget deal threw off the last vestiges of spending caps delivered by the Tea Party Congress. Promises of Republican spending restraint in Donald Trump’s potential second term ring as hollow as claims he’s using tariffs as a path to freer trade.

Here’s the worrying consequence. As US conservatives have learned to love deficits, or at least use them, the left’s spending demands have only gotten more extreme. With constraints stripped away, Democratic Presidential candidates feel liberated to propose mammoth programmes and spending hikes – the Green New Deal, a jobs guarantee, universal childcare and more. When asked how the country can afford this, they point out to the red ink spilled for Republican priorities. There is no answer.

UK Conservatives are far from the Republican point of no return on spending, as yet. But the mood music has changed dramatically. America shows that when conservatives abandon spending constraint, they legitimise the left’s spending wild demands, to taxpayers’ detriment.

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Theresa May fell into the traps set by the EU and caved into their demands

The failure (thus far) to implement the people’s wishes on Brexit must be the greatest cock-up in British history. It has created a political mess in which we wallow while the world laughs. So it’s worthwhile to ask what went wrong and learn the lessons. We wasn’t just robbed. We failed incompetently.

Brexiteers assumed that it would be easy. In fact the obstacles were enormous. We faced an intransigent and inflexible opponent in a devious, cunning EU. A determined and articulate middle-class reaction in Britain colluded with Brussels to undermine our case. The Cabinet was divided, a wittering Chancellor poured on cold water and the Treasury organised a chorus of fear. Theresa May’s weakness meant she could be treated and foiled in shameful fashion. All this doomed her.

Instead of implementing the referendum result as his Government had said it would, Cocksure Cameron sulked off. In came Theresa May, too nice to fight, too inflexible to be devious and too stupid to understand. She naively assumed that all she had to do was talk nicely to other heads of state who would understand the politics. Instead she was forced to deal only with the Commission – that had everything to lose. Its role and its money were threatened by Brexit. So it grabbed control of the negotiations to punish us and protect itself.

Niceness was out. Middle-class Europhiles and the Establishment in Britain felt their right to rule was threatened by the hairy armpits of uneducated, ill-informed plebs who’d voted in a way they should never have been allowed to. This encouraged EU determination to punish a nation impertinent enough to question its EU destiny. So while Brexiteers celebrated, the Commission plotted and decided immediately that the 27 would stand together. Then the conditions of departure would be settled before any talks about trade. They’d come only after Britain left. In effect “no deal departure” started as an EU policy.

That put May in a trap. The Lisbon Treaty says once notification is given “a withdrawal agreement is negotiated setting out the arrangements for withdrawal and outlining the country’s future relationship with the union”, two processes to go on concurrently. May’s notification letter of 29th March 2017 asked for this:

“We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal.”

Legally correct. But EU law is observed only if it furthers ever closer union. This didn’t. A conglomerate of 27 nations can’t negotiate. So EU bureaucrats insisted on one negotiator who would not discuss future cooperation until tough terms for divorce were agreed. Their executioner was Michel Barnier, a man with a Gallic dislike of Britain who announced:

“My mission will have been a success when the terms are so brutal for the British that they prefer to stay in the union.”

He made certain of this by adding a veto for Ireland to the two initial demands about money and protection for EU citizens. There would be no customs border, thus ensuring that Northern Ireland must be treated separately, or the whole of the UK kept in the Single Market. This was the backstop. It threatened to keep the UK a vassal state, but was justified as protection for the Good Friday Agreement. The two were totally unrelated but it was an implicit threat that the old violence would be unleashed unless May caved.

She did. David Davis announced that simultaneous negotiations would bethe fight of the summer” but by the autumn May had decided to grovel, not fight. She erased her red lines, walked into the trap and agreed everything the Commission wanted – only then to suffer humiliation at the EU summit and more in Parliament, which refused to pass her bedraggled agreement.

Her demise leaves a deadlock. A new government determined on Brexit confronts an EU which won’t budge from an agreement which can’t pass, while deliberately inflated fears of “no deal” intimidate the nation. A new government should mean new negotiations but that opens up the whole can of worms of legality, unity, and skullduggery. So the EU is loath to do it, meaning a confrontation which deadlocks everything. Except hysteria.

My conclusion is that whoever negotiates with the EU must carry a big stick. Others invoke the analogy of Dunkirk with Churchill snatching victory out of defeat. That’s daft. We were a nation then, Churchill had a huge majority, there was neither a bourgeois fifth column, nor vested interests generating fear and no media to damn Churchill for dirty underpants. How fortunate that the consequences of either side winning are more marginal than 1940, whatever their long-term impact on the kind of nation we want to be.

The post Theresa May fell into the traps set by the EU and caved into their demands appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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How not to destroy Trump and Johnson

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson both have a capacity to provoke torrents of abuse from otherwise moderate, well-behaved people. An article this week for The New York Times raises the question of whether, given the failure of the most vicious insults to have any visible effect on the President’s poll ratings, “the search for a killer line on Mr Trump is a fool’s errand”.

He has been called “a pathological liar”, “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”, “ISIL man of the year”, “utterly amoral”, a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen”, and a “terrible human being” who has made “disgusting and indefensible” comments about women, to quote but a few of the things said about him by senior Republicans.

I have not gone to the trouble of collecting a comparable series of insults about Johnson. But in the latest London Review of Books, Ferdinand Mount calls him “a seedy, treacherous chancer”, and there is plenty more where that came from.

Trump and Johnson speak well of each other, but are in important respects quite different. Johnson is better educated, more charitable, more favourably disposed towards immigrants, more loyal to the institutions to which he belongs or has belonged, and more anxious to unite people, and to restore friendly relations when he has annoyed them.

But both men have benefited, at various points, from being underestimated by their critics, who perhaps supposed that no one could survive such fierce attacks.

And supporters of Trump and Johnson sometimes get the impression they too are being written off as evil and repulsive people. Hillary Clinton was explicit about this. She said at one of her fundraisers that you could put half Trump’s supporters in “the basket of deplorables”, for they are, in her view, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it”.

This is not very good politics. The easy hit of self-righteousness, the casting into outer darkness of one’s opponents and their followers, enables one to avoid the more difficult task of scrutinising what those opponents are saying, and working out which bits of it constitute a legitimate response to the understandable concerns of, say, car workers who worry their jobs are going to Mexico.

Johnson benefits from the same lack of proper scrutiny. In recent weeks he has made announcements on such matters as health spending, police numbers and prisons which might equally well have come from a moderate Labour leader.

The Opposition has been reduced to silence, or to fringe subjects like grouse shooting. It informs us from time to time that Johnson is a liar, but this means it cannot respond to what he actually says. By indulging in character assassination, it has deprived itself of an opponent with whom it could have an argument.

On Brexit, it insists Johnson is leading the country to perdition, but its warnings are often put in such apocalyptic terms that voters wonder whether things are going to be quite as bad as all that; wonder indeed whether it is the Remainers who have lost touch with reality.

The case against exaggerating your opponent’s faults was well put by Tony Blair in his memoir, A Journey. Here is his defence of the gentle art of disparaging understatement:

I defined Major as weak; Hague as better at jokes than judgment; Howard as an opportunist; Cameron as a flip-flop, not knowing where he wanted to go. (The Tories did my work for me in undermining Iain Duncan Smith.) Expressed like that, these attacks seem flat, rather mundane almost, and not exactly inspiring – but that’s their appeal. Any one of those charges, if it comes to be believed, is actually fatal. Yes, it’s not like calling your opponent a liar, or a fraud, or a villain or a hypocrite, but the middle-ground floating voter kind of shrugs their shoulders at those claims. They don’t chime. They’re too over the top, too heavy, and they represent an insult, not an argument. Whereas the lesser charge, because it’s more accurate and precisely because it’s more low-key, can stick.

Trump will probably defeat himself in the end. So perhaps will Johnson. Their opponents seem unable to find the right words.

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Johnson bypasses the broadcasters to talk directly to voters

Yesterday’s announcement of a relaxation of the immigration rules for scientists from around the world was noteworthy for two reasons.

First, because it’s a good idea, long overdue and likely to be popular.

Second, because of how the message was delivered.

There was a press release, and an accompanying evening news package by the BBC, filmed on a Prime Ministerial visit to a fusion power research centre in Oxfordshire. But before either of those went out, the actual announcement took place online, in a Facebook Live broadcast by Boris Johnson.

The video itself was short, hitting key messages on police and NHS spending before trailing the headline news, leaving the detail for the official release shortly afterwards. The fairly simple set contained a few nods to his fans (and detractors) The flag, the ministerial red box (rapped pointedly when he spoke of getting to work) and, nestled away at the back, a red bus.

No, not that red bus. Nor the now-famous red buses built out of painted wine boxes. Rather a red, double-decker, London bus featuring the Back Boris 2008 logo – a memento of the mayoralty which influenced him so much, placed carefully where a TV had stood earlier in the day.

It’s the use of this video as the first point of announcement for an important policy that is particularly significant. It’s no secret that some political broadcasters have at times been a bit antagonistic, and that there are some tensions in the relationship already. More generally, what every politician really desires is an opportunity to communicate their message directly to voters without edit, limit or interpretation.

Breaking news through a social media broadcast, unfiltered, therefore makes sense. Between Facebook and Twitter this clip was seen by at least 450,000 people throughout the course of the evening, which isn’t bad given there was no pre-publicity to warn the audience in advance. My understanding is that this is a first experiment, and there will be more such broadcasts from the Prime Minister, the audience of which will be closely studied in Downing Street.

In an age which values authenticity, this is an approach with potential, particularly for this Prime Minister. Johnson opens with an invitation, the emphasis on the personal nature of the conversation and the privileged access being offered to viewers: “I’m speaking to you live from my desk in Downing Street”. He has built his career on being distinctive, engaging and entertaining; he’s the Government’s most notable media asset. It would be madness to lock that away behind bland scripts and anonymised official statements.

Previous examples of leaders seeking such direct communication with voters spring to mind, some more successful than others. Stanley Baldwin, the UK’s earliest adopter of broadcasting as a political tool; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous ‘fireside chats’; Harold Wilson’s sometimes ill-advised penchant for television (complete with the affectation of a pipe); Ronald Reagan’s extraordinary run of over 1,000 daily radio commentaries on current affairs prior to becoming President. David Cameron, of course, had WebCameron – sometimes a bit stagey, but always more at ease than Gordon Brown’s rictus efforts at YouTube. There are lessons from each, and all underscore that no politician can afford to stand still while the media changes around him.

It’s encouraging to see the Prime Minister’s team exploring and trying out new ways to cut through to the electorate. Making sure they maintain message discipline while allowing his personality to show will be the key. Relax it too much and it loses its bite; structure it too closely and it risks looking like a hostage video, turning off fans who want to feel they are seeing their Prime Minister as he really is. Get it right, and these broadcasts could have a really big impact.

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