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Impressions of “All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class,” by Tim Shipman

Last year I read Unleashing Demons, a history of the 2016 United Kingdom Referendum to Leave the European Union written by the Craig Oliver. Oliver worked for the europhile and Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron, before working directly for Britain Stronger in Europe — the “Remain” campaign. All out War covers a similar period, but focuses on two rival aspects of the “Leave” campaign: “Vote Leave” (associated with Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, and the euroskeptic wing of the Conservative Party) and “Leave.eu” (associated with Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, and the U.K. Independence Party).

Even after I read Unleashing Demons, I had trouble telling “Vote Leave” and “Leave.eu” apart. Part of this was Oliver’s style of writing, where he criticized each of his rivals in broad strokes for weaknesses of any of them. But another reason is the political and cultural differences between the “Vote Leave” and “leave.eu” voters are probably lost on Americans. And to me understanding these divides were probably even more valuable than the day-by-day account of the Referendum campaigns that Shipman presents in All Out War.

The Labour Party is sometimes considered the U.K.’s version of the “Democratic” Party, but that’s not really true. The Labour Party is associated with Trades-Unionism, a form of economic and political organization that was widely discredited in the U.K. in mutual annihilation of the Labour Party and the Labour unions. The election of Margaret Thatcher in that year permanently shifted British politics around managerial capitalism and a social welfare state. The only Labour politician to become Prime Minister since 1979, Tony Blair, did so with a platform and governing agenda indistinguishable from Conservatives such as David Cameron.

After reading All Out War, it feels that British politics falls on a 2×2 axis, of anglophiles against europhiles and elitists against populists. The Conservative Power lock on power is as the cost of incoherence on one of the two important political axes in the country.

The refusal of the Labour Party to be viable, like the Republican parties of California, means a substantial minority of votes in most elections are simply thrown away, because the British Labour Party (like the California Republican Party) is unable to win.

But in the UK-EU Referendum, these votes mattered again. The referendum was a battle within the Conservative Party, between Elitist europhiles (Prime Minister David Cameron, etc) and Elitist anglophiles (Prime Minister Boris Johnson), with unaligned conservatives (Prime Minister Theresa May) and others battling for electoral position. The Referendum can be thought as two contests simultaneously, a Conservative Party civil war (elitist europhiles vs elitists anglophiles) combined with an English Civil War (elitist anglophiles vs populist anglophiles).

The Conservative Civil War

It was shocking to be how many people in the story went to Oxford. Prime Minister Tony Blair (’75), Prime Minister Theresa May (’77), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (’87), Minister Michael Gove (’88), Minister Jeremy Hunt (’88), Prime Minister David Cameron (’88), Dominic Cummings (’94), and Will Straw (’02) are a few. Both the “Remain” campaign (formally, British Stronger in Europe) and the “Vote Leave” campaign orbited this elite. The messaging from both campaigns was primarily designed for the delight: the dangers to the status quo of leaving vs “Vote Leave’s” focus on “respectability.” I greatly admire much of what Dominic Cummings (the campaign advisor for “Vote Leave”) has done, but reading the difference between Remain and Vote Leave, between Cameron and Johnson, felt like the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The English Civil War

This is why it felt like the most anger was within the Leave campaign – between the Oxfordian “Vote Leave” and the more populist Leave.eu. UK Leader Nigel Farage (Dulwhich College), UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall (Edge Hill), UKIP Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell (East Anglia), donor Arron Banks (no degree) are notable for not going to Oxford — of the prominent Leave.eu faction only MP Mark Reckless has a typical elite degree of Oxford.

Initially I was confused at the venom the two Leave campaigns had for each other, but after realizing the elitist vs. populist alignment made so much make more sense. For instance, “Vote Leave”‘s elitist campaign emphasized the powers of England’s domestic elites, and the ability of England to maintain a complex welfare state on its own.

By contrast, “Leave.eu” focused heavily on immigration. The highest profile advertisement, “Breaking Point,” was viciously attacked by both the Remain and “Vote Leave” sides. This confused me, because on the surface it appeared that “Vote Leave” and “Leave.eu” were cleverly messaging different audiences. But the divide between elitists and populists is deeper than a single election, and it is ironic that in the American mind Dominic Cummings and Nigel Farage are now associated with each other.

A humorous example of this is at one point Remainer and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (Oxford, ’93) warned that if the U.K. left the EU, housing prices would decrease. This was seen by Labour and UKIP voters (and more, who did not vote) as a remain for leaving the EU, as it would make a house more affordable for them or their children.

After All Out War was written Britain had a re-vote of sorts, as Theresa May’s coalition government was replaced by Boris Johnson. Johnson won a “crushing victory” over both the divided Labour/Scottish Nationalist/Liberal-Democrat opposition(s) and his actual rivals, pro-European, Elitist Conservatives. Johnson’s victory was helped by the political sacrifice of Nigel Farage, who withdrew his party from seats held by the Conservatives in a successful effort to guarantee an Anglophile victory.

So the civil wars were both won by Boris Johnson. He defeated David Cameron, he accepted Nigel Farage’s surrender, and he eliminated the Labour Part once again as a viable contender.

Differences with “Unleashing Demons”

As I mentioned, All Out War is primarily from the perspective of the rival Leave campaigns, while Unleashing Demons is from the perspective of the Remain campaign. All Out War is longer, starting earlier (so that the beginning of Unleashing Demons is nearly at the midpoint of All Out War) and continues later (through the replacement of the leadership of all major parties after the Referendum result). Unleashing Demons is written by a participant, so locks you into a single source.

All Out War is also more enjoyable. Human details, such as which pub important events happened in, make it possible to plan a “Brexit” tour of London. In any case, both books were used as sources for the excellent TV movie, Brexit: The Uncivil War.

Final Thoughts

All Out War is an excellent history of the Brexit referendum and the leaders on both sides. I enjoyed the inside look into Conservative Party politics, and look forward to visiting some of the pub recommendations.

I read All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class in the Audible edition.

Impressions of “Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit,” by Craig Oliver

Recently I read Unleashing Demons by Craig Oliver, an adviser to former UK Prime Minister David Cameron who also worked with the anti-Brexit campaign, “Stronger In.” Unleashing Demons presents an inside view of the failed attempt to convince the British people they should stay in the European Union. Oliver does a good job presenting a detailed history of events and lays blame at numerous people, but not himself nor his former employer. He makes a few claims that are questionable. The book itself is clearly intended for a British audience, but there’s some overlap with US politics too.

Unleashing Demons appears to be a re-purposed diary. It’s very detailed, and does not have a real sense of pacing. It seems likely that most of the book is literally composed of what Oliver recorded happening that day, narrowed down to the EU referendum.

The book begins shortly before the campaign. Oliver’s faction, “Britain Stronger in Europe”) or “Stronger In” for short),” was composed of the leadership of the Conservative, Labor, Liberal-Democrat, Green, and Scottish National Parties. The opposing faction, “Vote Leave” (and its frenemy, “Leave.eu”) was primarily composed of unhappy Conservative Party members, including cabinet ministers. One consequence of this is that the “Stronger In” campaign was strongly associated with the establishment. Oliver realizes this, but fails to appreciate how profoundly this blinded him. At several points Oliver (who narrates the audible edition) seems truly angry and bewildered by “experts” in “post-war institutions” were so widely distrusted. He lives in an establishment world where the financial crisis and the Iraq occupation have not destroyed the credibility of the elite. Another consequence is that the Brexit referendum was seen as a Conservative Party civil war by the other parties. Oliver suspects the incompetent assistance by other parties may have been given on purpose, in order to weaken the Conservative Party.

Oliver briefly describes the pro-Brexit campaign. The official pro-Brexit campaign was Vote Leave, actually led by Cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove. At the same time the U.K Independent Part of Nigel Farage ran a more enthusiastic wildcat campaign, Leave.eu. While tensions between these campaigns are mentioned, but pro-Brexit side appeared more united than the anti-Brexit side.

An irony of the book is that beliefs now associated with Brexiteers (such as that a vote is irrevocable, that “out means out,” and so on) were largely pushed by the Leave campaign and the Cameron administration. This is part of what was called disparagingly “Project Fear,” justified by Oliver as a method of emphasizing the negative aspects of Brexit as a risk to the self-interest of marginal British voters. Within the narrative previous Labor Prime Ministers argued against this approach, emphasizing that while the Brexit side has both a positive message (regain sovereignty) and a negative one (risk from immigration), the pro-Brexit side has only a negative message (risk to the economy) without a positive message (either Brown’s “lead not leave” British power within the EU, or a focus on an “open” world). In the text Oliver is dismissive of this view.

Oliver lists a number of villains who are responsible for Brexit being passed. These include German Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy, the Labour party for sabotaging the referendum, disloyal Conservative ministers, people “who don’t like brown people”, a lack of a pro-EU story, and the BBC for not silencing news he disliked. In the book and outside it he has called for the BBC to censor political views he dislikes. These include differences from whether or not Turkey can ever join the EU, to whether there might be a EU army.

Unleashing Demons touches on American politics in a few points. The chief pollster for the anti-Brexit campaign was Jim Messini, who also worked for Obama’s successful reelection campaign. Earlier in the book the narrative feels like it’s broken to insist Obama’s line, that Britain would go “in the back of the queue,” was written without British assistance, even though that is not an American expression. As the book neared its conclusion it began to feel more like Donna Brazille’s Hacks, as it became increasingly bitter to members of the author’s own party.

I read Unleashing Demonshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Fear: The Inside Story of Brexit in the Audible edition.

Islamists, Europeans, and Free Speech

Last year, Network Solutions (a hosting company that caused Chet trouble on an unrelated problem) yanked the website of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who produced a movie entitled “Fitnah” to protest the murder of the director of the movie “Submission” Both “Fitna” and “Submission” focus on perceived mistreatment of women in Islam.

Britain yesterday decided that avoiding another terrorist strike was more important that free speech or even Continental Unity (as Mr. Wilders is a Parliamentarian in a fellow EU member state). Wilders’ response is typical of his bravery and showmanship:

“I’ll see what happens at the border,” Geert Wilders told Radio Netherlands on Wednesday. “Let them put me in handcuffs.”

The right-wing lawmaker was invited by a member of Parliament to show his anti-Islam movie “Fitna,” which calls the Koran a “fascist” book and accuses Islam of being a violent religion. He was told by the British Embassy in a letter Tuesday that he could not set foot in the country.

Previous attempts to show the film, in the real world and online, have been met with death threats and self-censorship. In the U.K., making the film is cause for expulsion from the country.

My hat off to Mr. Wilders, and other defenders of intellectual freedom everywhere.

Update: Geert Wilders has been denied entry at Heathrow Airport, and was then detained.

Update 2: More on the retreat of free-speech in Europe, from The Economist.

Afro-Islamic Gap v. Old Core

IQ and the Non-Integrating Gap,” by Arcane, gnxp, 26 September 2004, http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/002790.html.

The great divide: Pew surveys Muslim public opinion,” by Allahpundit, Hot Air, 22 June 2006, http://hotair.com/archives/2006/06/22/the-great-divide-pew-surveys-muslim-public-opinion/ (from Michelle Malkin).

Air chaos as terror plot foiled,” by Michael Holden and and David Clarke, The Standard, 11 August 2006, http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=16&art_id=24845&sid=9270156&con_type=3.

I’ve previously noted how the Non-Integrating Gap — those areas that are getting worse as globalization makes the world as a whole a better place — exports her violence to the Core — those areas benefiting the most from the global economy, Specifically I outlined how the Gap exported her terror to India and Israel.

Now the United Kingdom has been struck

British police foiled a suspected plot to blow up several aircraft mid-flight between Britain and the United States in what Washington said might have been an attempted al-Qaeda strike.

“We are confident we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction,” said London police’s Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson Thursday. “Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”

Sources said some of those held are British Muslims.

The security alert comes 13 months after four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured about 700 on London’s transport network.

While the Gap is both African and Islamic

tdaxps_new_map_md
Red = Gap, Yellow = Seam, Green = Core

A few things should be obvious:

  • The merely “African” portion of the Gap does not export terrorism. Terror — from India to Israel to England — is exported by Muslims. Islam is not a race, an ethnicity, or a nationality. It is a religion.
  • As a religion, it exists regardless of social status. During the London Train Bombings, we saw how a Muslim teacher of disabled children was part of the terror plot.
  • As a religion, it exists with little regard for geography. It appears the Muslims to were going to conduct this terror attack were British citizens.

The Global War on Terror, our long war, will be won when the Islamic world is lifted up from the Gap. This is for our benefit — no more of them exporting disease, plague, war, and terror, and for theirs. The Gap traps human beings in misery, poverty, and ignorance. The borders of the “non-integrating gap” are also very close to the borders of the lowest IQ nations:

Our actions, which are designed to change rulesets of action, thought, and behavior in the Islamic World, are going to invite retaliatory strikes…. even if the host populations of our enemies do not see a connection:

Therefore, we must firewall ourselves off from the terrorism of the Islamic Gap while changing regime rulesets of the Islamic Gap. Or, in simpler English, we are an open society, but we do not have to be an open society for all people at all times. And it may not be the risk.

No is Non

Blair hints at a possible U-turn on EU Constitution referendum,” Reuters, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1081522.cms, 19 April 2005 (from Pundita through ZenPundit).

Remember when I said

The important news: French intrasigence may save Tony Blair’s political career. Tony Blair has promised a vote on the new treaty, which is deepy unpopular in Britain. Losing a vote of that importance would seriously harm Blair’s credibility. Further, if the other countries vote yes, Britain may be asked to leave the European Union.

However, a French no vote gives everyone cover. Great news!

tdaxp: right again

Prime Minister Tony Blair indicated on Monday for the first time that Britain might shelve plans to hold a referendum on the European Union Constitution if France rejects the treaty next month. Blair’s Labour government, fighting for re-election on May 5, has until now been adamant it will call a vote on the charter in 2006 regardless of plebiscite results elsewhere in the EU.

As fears of a French ‘no’ vote grow, polls show Blair would be very hard-pressed to convince traditionally euro-sceptic Britons to back the treaty.

Most commentators say a ‘no’ vote in Britain could end the pro-European Blair’s career as premier.

Asked on Monday whether he would call a referendum even if France had voted against the charter, Blair said: “You can’t have a vote on nothing.”

The French to Save Tony Blair?

French opposition to EU treaty intensifies,” by John Lichfield, Independent, 4 April 2005, http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=626136 (From Democratic Underground).

The European Union is not the European union that France wanted. It is not the Future France wanted to create. Given that, it is not too surprising that the French are now euroskeptics

Hostility to the European Union constitution is hardening in France, despite increasingly desperate attempts by government and opposition leaders to rescue the collapsing “yes” vote before the referendum next month.

An opinion poll published yesterday showed that 55 per cent of French voters who had reached a decision were likely to reject the proposed new EU treaty in the vote on 29 May.

Worryingly for the “yes” camp, the latest survey – the sixth in a row to predict a “no” vote – shows an erosion of support for the treaty on the centre-right and a hardening of attitudes on the left.

Even when bribes are thrown in…

Senior political figures admit privately it may be impossible to turn around the extraordinary momentum gained by the no vote over the past three weeks. Efforts by the centre-right government last week to bribe public sector workers with an inflation-linked pay rise have had no immediate impact. Neither have dire warnings from President Jacques Chirac and others that a no would plunge European and French domestic politics into deep crisis. He will make his first major contribution to the campaign in a live television debate on Thursday

The new treaty or Constitution is, basically, stupid. It frightens a lot of people by giving the transnational European Union a lot of vague powers (which worries Britain) and vague talk about free markets (which worries that French). In America we would sign the treaty and ignore it, but the Euros take things more seriously.

The important news: French intrasigence may save Tony Blair’s political career. Tony Blair has promised a vote on the new treaty, which is deepy unpopular in Britain. Losing a vote of that importance would seriously harm Blair’s credibility. Further, if the other countries vote yes, Britain may be asked to leave the European Union.

However, a French no vote gives everyone cover. Great news!