By Kalvin Chapman
Former UKIP Manchester Chairman

Originally posted on 25/09/2016

For those of us in UKIP the announcement of an EU Referendum was the shining glory of two decades’ worth of hard work by Nigel Farage and others in UKIP.  It was the Prime Minister’s only option.  If he did not call the referendum he faced losing MPs to UKIP, having already lost Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell to UKIP[1].

For those of us that fought the GE 2015, it was a reward much welcomed, having failed to get any more MPs in Parliament, and having lost one (Mark Reckless, who now sits as an Assembly Member on the Welsh Assembly).

The Guardian ran an article on 28 December 2012 saying that the Prime Minister may “accidentally” take the UK out of the EU if he allowed a referendum on the question of the UK’s membership of the EU[2].

David Cameron has been warned that he risks leading Britain out of the European Union by accident because he has misread the willingness of fellow EU leaders to concede to his demands for a looser European union.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard – who was at the heart of Britain’s team during the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991 – fears the UK is facing “bust-up time” with the other 26 EU countries.

He is one of a group of pro-Europeans, including Lords Heseltine, Mandelson and Brittan, expressing their concerns that Cameron is miscalculating Europe’s determination to keep the current EU project intact, without the UK if necessary.

Cameron is due within weeks to indicate that after the next general election he would be prepared to hold a referendum on a new EU settlement – after repatriating powers during treaty negotiations aimed at underpinning eurozone governance.

A blog by Professor Pete Dorey on 29 December 2012 said that an EU Referendum could be the end of David Cameron’s position as Prime Minister[3].

On 23 January 2013 David Cameron pledged that if the Conservatives won a majority in the May 2015 General Election he would hold an In/Out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU[4].  They duly (and unexpectedly) won a majority at the next general election in 2015.  He had no option but to keep the pledge.  I would love to ask him now how much he regrets that!

As we all know, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove both became leading figures in Vote Leave, with David Cameron and George Osborn fighting it out for Remain.  Teresa May allegedly backed Remain, but (as noted below) was in fact not caring who won, she would back who ever won and hope to become Prime Minister, as did Gove and Johnson.

In a sensational but expected memoir[5] of the referendum campaign, David Cameron’s chief of communications (think Tony Blair’s Alastair Campbell – this is the tory version) Sir Craig Oliver tells us what allegedly happened during that period.  It is nothing short of a stab in the back for those that stabbed David Cameron in the back during the referendum.  Thrilling read though[5]:

History tends to be written by the winners. That statement might be a cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true – or painful – for those who lost the EU referendum.

My book, Unleashing Demons, describes what it was like being at David Cameron’s side throughout the campaign, and why, despite having thrown everything at it, he lost and had to leave Downing Street.

The account, serialised in today’s Mail on Sunday, is based on my notes and a diary of being in key meetings with everyone from Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, to Boris Johnson and Theresa May. I didn’t expect to tell the story so soon – because I hoped we’d win.

None of the details have been changed, however hard it was for me to read them back. Some who have already read the book believe it will make for even harder reading for senior politicians, a few of whom remain in high office, and many who don’t. My intention isn’t to expose or embarrass them. I simply want to put on record what actually happened during one of biggest political storms this country has ever faced.

The title of the book, Unleashing Demons, comes from a conversation I had with Cameron in his armour-plated car on the way to a speech.

Both of us believed a decision over Britain’s membership of the European Union had been a slow train coming for a generation, and now it was arriving in the station on his watch.

The reasons were obvious: Nigel Farage’s Ukip was on the rise, not just doing well in the 2014 European elections, but actually winning them. And scores of Conservative MPs were rebelling on anything and everything to do with Europe.

The book serialisation reads to me as having been written for three reasons:

(1) To make way for David Cameron’s memoirs – to give a warning to those in high office what they can expect when DC’s memoirs are released – which is soon;

(2) To act as pay back to Theresa May, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.  It does not spare any pain for these three.

(3) To try and explain why Remain was such a disaster.

It does all three very well.  I remember during the referendum campaign wondering why May refused to  pick a side despite officially being on the Remain side.  Now we know.  She was hedging her bets and banking on Number 10 as a reward.  It is odd because it only tends to Labour MPs that go through life getting elected because they have said nothing during the last five years – May is one of the unusual tories who have succeeded as a direct consequence of keeping their mouths firmly closed.  It tends to show a lack of a backbone, which is why it is always so frustrating when they win in an election despite having said or done nothing to help the electorate.

I also crucially remember the disgusting antics of Michael Gove.  Having spent the entire campaign telling everyone he had no ambitions for Number 10 to then do a full 180 and stab Boris Johnson in the back in doing so[6].  I had a lot of respect for him until I saw those two press briefings on the day Johnson confirmed he would not stand due to Gove’s “ambush”[7] and Gove said he would.  I lost all respect.  Boris would have made a great Prime Minister.  No matter what – he did not deserve what happened to him.  Gove should be thoroughly disgusted with himself. History will not be kind to either though, and David Cameron’s memoir is likely to be the reason why.

So, read the serialisation[5].  It is an interesting read.  Buy the book[9].  But most of all, wait for David Cameron’s memoirs, because I expect he is going to do as much political damage as he can to Gove, May and Johnson as he possibly can.  They will be out soon[8].  Fireworks will be seen.




[1]  5 January 2016 Daily Telegraph “EU Referendum: David Cameron forced to let ministers campaign for Brexit after fears of a Cabinet resignation

[2] The Guardian 28/12/2012 “David Cameron ‘risks leading Britain out of EU by accident’

[3] 29/12/2012 Pete Dorey – Cardiff University writing for EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, of the London School of Economics “Britain’s relationship with Europe could bring about the

downfall of David Cameron

[4] BBC News 23 January 2013 “David Cameron promises in/out referendum on EU”

[5] Mail on Sunday 25 September 2015 “How Theresa torpedoed Cameron and Boris Johnson said Leave would LOSE: Explosive new book by No10 spin chief reveals the inside story of Brexit

[6] 30 June 2016 Daily Telegraph “Michael Gove  has ‘no charisma’ but insists he is the ‘change candidate’ and will spend £100m a week on the NHS”

[7] 30 June 2016 Daily Telegraph “Conservative MPs in uproar as Boris Johnson ‘rips party apart’ by withdrawing from leadership contest after ambush by Michael Gove”

[8] “Unleashing Demons : The Inside Story of Brexit” by Sir Craig Oliver Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2016

[9] 20 September 2016 “How should Cameron write his memoir? More indiscretion, less spin

The former PM’s book will earn him a £1m advance, but there are pitfalls in reflecting on your place in history. One political biographer offers some tips”