Give Me a Crash Course in... David Cameron’s autobiography
Who is David Cameron, and what does his book say about Brexit, Boris and Enda Kenny?
Brexit aftermath: David Cameron leaves Downing Street with his wife, Samantha, on July 13th, 2016, his final day as UK prime minister. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty
Who is David Cameron?
He used to be one of the British Conservative Party’s most successful leaders since the second World War, restoring it to government in 2010 and winning its first parliamentary majority in more than two decades five years later. But he is now remembered as the prime minister who called a referendum in 2016 on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union – and lost it.
So is it all his fault?
Many people think so, and Remainers blame him for putting the question to voters without allowing them enough time to be fully informed about the consequences. Brexiteers blame him for campaigning to remain in the EU by warning of dire economic consequences in what they called Project Fear.
Why is he in the news?
His autobiography, For the Record, was published this week, accompanied by a flurry of broadcast interviews and a television documentary. The 700-page book took him three years to write, and he initially planned to wait until after Britain left the EU before publishing it. But Brexit has taken so long that his publisher lost patience.
Is he sorry for his role in Brexit?
Not really. He regrets losing the referendum but doesn’t apologise for calling it, because it was inevitable, he claims, that the UK would have to make a decision about its future in the EU. He says he thinks every day about his responsibility for the divisions Brexit has opened in British society. And he rejects the charge that he walked away from his responsibility when he resigned as prime minister the day after the referendum, claiming that his role in the Remain campaign meant he was the wrong person to lead the UK out of the EU.
Does the book settle any old scores?
Cameron says that Boris Johnson, who was mayor of London and a recently re-elected MP at the time of the referendum campaign, didn’t believe in Brexit and only backed the Vote Leave side to advance his political career. And he accuses Michael Gove, his secretary of state for justice at the time, and now the minister responsible for the UK’s no-deal Brexit preparations, of dishonesty and of becoming a “foam-flecked Faragist” during the campaign.
“By the end, Boris and Michael seemed to me to be different people. Boris had backed something he didn’t believe in. Michael had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends,” he 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.”
Who emerges well out of the memoir?
Enda Kenny, for one. Cameron praises the former taoiseach’s handling of the 2008 banking crisis and his approach to British-Irish relations. “Enda Kenny acted fast to cut spending, raise taxes and address the banking problems. It was brave, it averted any Greek-style collapse, and it showed that if you take tough decisions your economy can recover quickly,” he writes. “Enda and I got on well, and our relationship would culminate when he became my staunchest supporter during the European negotiations.”
Why is Queen Elizabeth annoyed with him?
Cameron revealed this week that in the run-up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence he asked Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary if the monarch could help the campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom with a “raising of an eyebrow – even, you know, a quarter of an inch”. A few days later the queen told a well-wisher near her Scottish retreat, at Balmoral, who asked about the vote that she hoped people would “think very carefully about the future”. Buckingham Palace made clear its “displeasure and annoyance” at the former prime minister for making public the details of private conversations involving the queen.