As David Cameron's director of politics and communications, Craig Oliver was in the room at every key moment during the EU referendum - the biggest political event in the UK since World War II.
Craig Oliver worked with all the players, including David Cameron, George Osbourne, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May and Peter Mandelson.
Unleashing Demons is based on his extensive notes, detailing everything from the decision to call a referendum to the subsequent civil war in the Conservative Party and the aftermath of the shocking result. This is raw history at its very best, packed with enthralling detail and colourful anecdotes from behind the closed doors of the campaign that changed British history.
"Utterly fascinating.... I suspect that every historian of the period will regard it as indispensable to appreciating this extraordinary phase in our history." (John Simpson)
"The compelling insider's account of the man who was at the centre of the Downing Street web." (Nick Robinson)
"This is one of the most vivid, frank and exciting inside accounts to have been written for years." (Anthony Seldon)
"A gripping fly-on-the-wall account of the frenzy in Downing Street during the EU campaign." (Robert Peston)
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Great Back Story
Probably not but only because the pace on modern political events will out pace the story written by the author.
The realization that nothing David Cameron did would likely have saved the membership of the UK in the EU.
His revelations of the character of (in his opinion) the major players in the campaign for and against leaving the EU
That the current prime minister most likely was for leave but hid it well in the run up to the referendum.
- Will Sexton
Honest account for what it does and doesn't say
Oliver was as inside the Remain campaign as was possible to be. To all intents and purposes, he *ran* it as much as Cameron did.
An honest, likeable and enthusiastic reader. Oliver makes you feel his pain and frustration as the Remain campaign starts to unravel.
As honest an account of the Remain campaign as this is, it's written very much from a Tory (Conservative) view point. Prime Minister, David Cameron (usually referred to as "DC" or "PM" in the narrative) and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne (usually just "George") are portrayed as level headed, reasonable and honest politicians. But then who wouldn't be when set against Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage?
For Oliver, the failure of the Remain came down mainly to the Leave campaign switching their focus to immigration, once they's realised (correctly) that their own economic arguments were being seen as the nonsense that they were. Remain had no real response to this, other than to say that yes, they realised that immigration is a problem but destroying the economy wasn't the way to deal with it. By Oliver's own admission, this was a weak counter.
Oliver also spends much of the narrative railing against the pro-Brexit bias of much of the British media. This is, of course, hypocrisy of the highest order. That same media was just as biased in favour of the Tories during the previous year's General Election, and Oliver does admit that "I took what I could get" from them at that time.
The major weakness of Oliver's story is his failure to concede, or even comprehend, how Cameron and Osborne brought the whole mess upon themselves. Quite literally, in that it was Cameron who called the referendum in the first place. Oliver deal with this quite early in the book, and his explanation is breathtaking in its born to rule, Tory arrogance: in his view, Cameron had to call the referendum because without it "the Conservative Party, and therefore the country, would have been ungovernable". Got that, everyone? It's not that Cameron put the interests of his party before the interests of the country, oh no. In fact, that would be impossible because the Tories and the country are actually one and the same, indivisible; what's good for one must be good for the other.
Another glaring omission is the severe austerity measures that Cameron and Osborne imposed in the UK from 2010 onwards, the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The cruel cuts, which as ever, fell disproportionally on the poor, when it was rich bankers who caused the GFC in the first place. When scratching his head, trying work out why people had voted for Leave, at no point does Oliver acknowledge that the resentment against austerity might have had anything to do with it.
Oliver ends his book with Cameron being chauffeured out of 10 Downing Street for the last time. "I wonder", muses Oliver, "how history will judge him?" I don't wonder. Cameron was an idiot and history will judge him as one.
- Michael Brown