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On the eve of the publication of his long-awaited memoirs, David Cameron has given an interview to the Times and it makes fascinating reading.
There’s lots of characteristically sweary indiscretions, but also a heck of a lot of what feels like denial about his role in the Brexit mess. It’s as if he’s cherry picked the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance - and chucked them in a smoothie blender. And acceptance is the missing ingredient.
Yes, he admits he’s been down, saying he was “hugely depressed” about the Vote Leave result. But there’s no real acceptance of his own direct responsibility for one of the biggest earthquakes to hit Britain for a generation.
The lack of remorse or regret is most striking. And that’s why (quite apart from the fact that the interview shows him sitting in the designer garden room of his multi-million pound London home) he will get scant sympathy.
“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.”
That will remind some of Tony Blair’s line to the Iraq Inquiry that he spends every day thinking of those killed in the conflict. But at least Blair had the grace to say “I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever believe”.
Asked if he finds sleeping hard, he spots the elephant trap but still replies “I worry about it a lot. I worry about it a lot.” ‘Worry’ somehow doesn’t capture the enormity of what’s happened. You worry you didn’t put the cat out at night, but perhaps as a former PM you should do more than worry that you plunged the entire nation into a three-year-long omnishambles that remains unresolved.
Cameron however defends himself repeatedly. Crucially, he says that a referendum was “inevitable”, as if holding one was to follow some iron law of physics, rather than a political choice he personally made. Even George Osborne clearly thinks it was not inevitable, as the book reveals the former chancellor to this day still refers to “you and your fucking referendum”.
Asked if he feels guilty, all he can say is “Look, having a referendum was not a decision that I took in any way lightly.” That ‘look’ is the classic defensiveness of an ex-PM who simply refuses to accept the place in history others have given him.
For millions, Cameron will be ‘the man who broke Britain’, but what’s also notable about his interview is the way he blames others, particularly Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. The vitriol for Gove drips off the page. He reveals he texted Gove during one falling out, “you are either a team player or a wanker”, and describes him as ‘mendacious’.
Both Johnson and Gove “left the truth at home” with their referendum claims about an invasion of millions of Turkish migrants, and about the £350 million on the Vote Leave battlebus. Why can’t he just say they lied? Well, that would be to tell the truth.
Cameron was famously chameleon-like as a politician. He shape-shifted from ‘Hug-a-Husky’ Opposition leader to a PM who condemned ‘green crap’. He spent years slagging the EU, then belatedly tried to trumpet its membership. He pledged to match Labour on public spending, then instituted what turned into a decade of austerity.
Yet for all his twists and turns, Cameron was never as politically tone deaf as he sounded today. It’s no wonder that many will feel that bad karma has finally found him. But if he is ever to move on from Brexit, he will need to change his tone and his belief system once more. Right now, that seems that’s a change too far.
“We won’t know unless we waterboard the Corgi.”
– Rory Stewart on LBC on whether the PM lied to the Queen
Boris Johnson felt a bit of northern exposure on an electioneering visit to Yorkshire. During a trip to Doncaster market, a woman accosted him and said: “People have died because of austerity, and you’ve got the cheek to come here and tell us austerity’s over and it’s all good now.” In Rotherham, a heckler said: “Why are you not with them in parliament sorting out the mess that you have created?”
The Rotherham event was hosted by BBC business journalist Steph McGovern, currently on maternity leave. She said as the PM left the stage. “I’d just like to point out I am a girly swot, and I’m proud of it! Let’s see who’s in the job for longest.” She later had to tweet an apology.
No.10 revealed the PM will head to Luxembourg on Monday to meet Jean-Claude Juncker for the first time. He will hold his first face-to-face talks at a “working lunch”.
It emerged the DUP could be willing to shift its red lines on Brexit if it had a legally binding “Stormont lock” which would give the Northern Ireland assembly a say on alignment with EU rules. Arlene Foster dismissed as “nonsense” but DUP sources confirmed to the Guardian similar mood music as appeared in the Times.
John Bercow continued his publicity blitz with an interview with the Evening Standard, saying “people would expect Parliament to meet soon” if the government lost its court case next week on prorogation.
It emerged that Bercow will formally resign as an MP on Monday 4 November. Nominations of candidates must be submitted between 9.30am and 10.30am on Monday 4 November, with the house proceeding immediately to the election when business begins at 2.30pm.
The threat of Brexit could see support for Welsh independence spike to 41%, according to a new YouGov poll commissioned by Plaid Cymru.
Hello From the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different - Time Magazine (by one of my favourite environment journalists Bill McKibben).
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