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.
©2016 Craig Oliver (P)2016 Hodder & Stoughton
"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)
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.
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.
"A genuine eye-opener"
A newspaper reviewer highlights the fact that in the book author's opinion, only he (Craig Oliver) and the Prime Minister at the time (David Cameron). "got it right".
That's the wrong mindset in which to listen to this book.This is an wholly idiosyncratic but sincere insider account of a turbulent period in British politics. Knowing the outcome of the Referendum, I listened to and marvelled at the manipulations of other politicians who were more intent on furthering their individual careers than being loyal to the man who led the Conservative Party back into power.
The interaction between the BBC and Downing Street, and between the latter and print journalists is equally absorbing.
This book is too "raw" and hastily-written to be well structured prose, but what a disturbing insight it provides into the machinations of those who seek to govern us. The author's delivery is too garbled at times, but this is a fascinating book that I would highly recommend listening to, but beware it will destroy any remaining trust one has in democratic politics.
"A self-serving therapeutic memoir that disappoints"
The narration was fine.
Taken time to reflect and leave his bubble before putting his thoughts down on paper.
The narration was fine.
I was a head says remain, heart says leave voter so I hope that this comes across as a balanced review. I found that the book focused on peddling the same rhetoric ad nauseam, the reason that leave won was clearly due to a failed campaign by Cameron et al with Craig playing a big part in this failure. The writing feels like a medicinal piece to try and convince himself that there was nothing more they could have done when deep down even Craig must realise that with the resources and support they received a better campaign would have sailed to victory at a canter.
The book also re-affirms how thick the bubble that 'they' live in really is. There are several instances which demonstrate this; the most poignant being an explanation of the campaigns response to the allegations that David Cameron received a gift of £200,000 from his mother in order to avoid inheritance tax. Craig acts utterly bemused that they offered a dubious excuse and it wasn't readily gobbled up by the media/public. This contempt and lack of respect for the public is exactly why a more schismatic form of politics is taking hold, I hope that changes are made soon before it is too late.
"A fascinating insight ..."
A fascinating insight into the biggest UK political event for a generation. Craig is an excellent narrator and brings the events leading up to Brexit to life.
The pace of the book is spot on. The description of waves of confidence/doubt, in Number 10 gives you a sense of the high stakes in play here.
Cannot recommend this book highly enough.
An amazing account from behind the scenes of daily political life. What an outstanding servant to the PM!
"A partisan attempt to refight the battles"
I don't think I would choose another book by this author. The narration was rushed and breathy, but the main issue was that this was a clearly partisan attempt to re-spin an already lost debate. I appreciate that Mr Oliver is a spin doctor by profession, and I have read a lot of political autobiographies that attempt the same thing - but this a particularly egregious and transparent example.
Be more objective. His treatment of the facts was far too heavily skewed by his own position on the issues.
Amateurish, rushed, breathy
I got to the end of it!
Its a shame that the country has been denied a more balanced and less partisan view of the referendum campaign. I appreciate that it was a race to publish, but it would be interesting to see if he would have written it differently after 5 years has elapsed.
"emotionally involved authoring"
an interesting account and certainly an eye opener to what goes on within politics. difficult to work out if the author's emotional involvement has skewed the account or his opinions, but some really good points made and some exposing content.
shame it can't turn back events and have been released amid the campaign!
Interesting book. I enjoyed it, but I only learned a little that I didn't already know. The narration was okay, but I wish authors left it to the specialists. It is a skill and authors rarely do as good a job as professional narrators or actors.
"fascinating inside view"
a fascinating inside view of the doomed campaign to remain in the European Union. Very interesting insights into the failure of Labour leadership, the dishonesty of much of the leave campaign, and the reality that there was very little the remain campaign could have done to avoid the ultimate outcome.
"An amazing account."
Love the way the author tells us of the events, and his analysis of the end result.
The inside perspective is fascinating. It is not an easy listen. I found myself furious by the end. Not with the author or the quality of the work itself but that my children's future could have been placed at stake and then damaged by those acting in a moral vacuum.
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