Book Review: Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit

Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of BrexitUnleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit by Craig Oliver

As someone involved in messaging, communications, strategy and PR, “Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit” was a riveting read with narratives, analogy, honest assessments and a front line seat to witness what exactly took place behind Number 10 Downing Street during on the most important period of British politics.

Craig Oliver as David Cameron’s Director of Politics and Communications documents the time from January, 2016, when Cameron renegotiated a deal with the European Union, the subsequent Referendum on Europe and the immediate aftermath of the referendum. From the onset it is obvious Oliver painted a benevolent view of Prime Minister David Cameron who is perceived as a man who wanted to ship the country to a better future and end the futile bickering of Europe. George Osborne, Cameron’s heir apparent was portrayed as a man who held conviction and put loyalty to Cameron above any political ambition. Oliver however painted Michael Gove, Chair of Leave as a Machiavellian character who may have been brilliant in being a savvy political operator but at the expense of political ambition and using any way to justify the means. Boris Johnson, the other lead Leaver was portrayed as a lost soul who may have meant well but was confused. I for one disagree about Boris and his agenda, one only has to read “Just Boris” to understand the blond ambition of the man. Although Nigel Farage is mentioned disparagingly, despite the fact that he was heard everywhere in the campaign, Oliver did ignore him at his peril throughout the book.

Oliver throughout the book recalls that he understood ‘ what the man on the street’ was thinking in relation to the Referendum, but their concerns over Immigration could not be addressed, coupled by the fact that the Remain refused to engage in Tory -on-Tory differences, which Cameron refused to engage. The economy was the selling point for The Remain Campaign, yet immigration could not be overcome, and even though the master of communication himself, Peter Mandelson repeatedly raised the prospect of Cameron addressing immigration, which was often ignored. It was obvious the issue of immigration made the difference for Brexit to win.

Oliver came out with the book before most others and gave an insider’s perspective without really going into detail of the mood the country. No doubt as more publications, diaries, analysis and history books will come out with a honest and brutal assessment of David Cameron as the man who took a gamble on the future of the country in order to calm unrest within his own party spectacularly backfired. Oliver was clearly an integral part of the inner circle and admits where he felt the campaign went wrong, however don’t expect a full analysis on why Remain lost.

I did find Oliver’s fascination with Peter Mandelson interesting as it seems the Labour PM tends to leave impressions on people across all political divides. Oliver also noted in late January David Cameron making the perceptive comment: “She could be PM in six months’ time,” the rest they say is history.

Oliver’s book highlights how important it is to have perfectly crafted and realistic messaging is essential for any organisation to succeed for any campaign or cause. However hand in hand, if one does not understand the pulse of the people of whom you are trying to convince, then expect a moment of unleashing demons coming one’s way.

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Book Review: Just Boris – A Tale of Blond Ambition

JUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond AmbitionJUST BORIS: A Tale of Blond Ambition by Sonia Purnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Journalist Simon Heffer once wrote “Mr. (Boris) Johnson is not a politician. He is an act. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail and ruthless ambition. He is pushy, he is thoughtless, he is indiscreet about his private life; none of this matters much to anyone these days, which is why he has gone so far in spite of them, and tomorrow may go further still.” Heffer wrote that in 2008 when Johnson beat ken Livingstone to be the mayor of London, however his words have struck a chord with me while I was reading Sonia Purnell’s ‘Just Boris – a Tale of Blond Ambition,’ an unauthorised biography of Johnson with a variety of sources on and it seems off the record.

Johnson, the man who voted and campaigned for Brexit, the man who pulled out of the race to succeed David Cameron as the Tory leader and Prime Minister, and widely blamed for not having a plan post referendum coupled with half-baked lies during the campaign has Heffer’s analysis spot on. Johnson supported Brexit not for the national interest but more out of blind ambition. My perspective was Johnson supported Brexit, assuming remain would win by a small margin, yet Johnson would be in a strong position to succeed Cameron as PM when he would stand aside due to his euro-sceptic credentials which he would have amassed during the Brexit campaign. Yet, as we know that was not the case as the country voted to leave the European Union, and somewhat put Johnson’s blind ambition slightly on hold.

Written before the 2012 Mayoral election, Purnell’s biography managed to get into the psyche of Boris, even though she did not speak to the man or his family at all. The New Statesman called it a ’Thorough study…sharply narrated and diligently researched.’ Standpoint called it ‘Meticulous and quietly devastating,’ while Camila Long of the Sunday Times said the book was “Filled with gems … will make uncomfortable reading for Boris.”

Purnell uses the book as a forensic examination of Boris with facts, humour and analysis backed up by quotes and recollections. She demonstrates that the man who is seen as a bumbler, buffoon and butt of jokes on Have I Got News For You does not go through Eton and Oxford, gets elected as President of the Oxford Union, works for the Daily Telegraph in Brussels, becomes editor of the Spectator and then goes into politics as MP and Mayor of London yet maintain the popular charisma and charm and the odd affair. Boris comes across as a buffoon yet Purnell shows that behind the buffoonery is a man who knows what he really wants.

Purnell succeeds in speaking to people who love and loath Boris. Reading the book brought some interesting facts and stories about Boris made me admire him for his determination, yet made me also loath him for his contempt for public service by using it as celebrity, lack of facts and lack of attention to detail.

Purnell, if she wants to could write up volume II of ‘Blond Ambition,’ exposing and analysing the second term of as mayor of London, his quest as MP, plans to usurp and hopefully replace David Cameron. Reasons for supporting Brexit, the fallout of Brexit and what the future will hold for Boris and his naked ambition to climb the greasy pole of British politics.

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Book Review: Talk of the Devil

Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Mrs Hoxha, Baby Doc Duvalier, Colonel Mengistu and Mira Milosevic (wife of Slobodan), all once leaders of countries who had fallen from grace through coups, revolutions or through the downfall of the Soviet Union’s patronage.

‘Talk of the Devil, encounters with seven dictators’ by the Italian journalist Riccardo Orizio shows how the end of the cold war had meant there was an increase of  a few out of job dictators who once reigned through the realms of fear.  Yet, after they were desposed of from power, they were now more focussed on satellites dishes in the case of Amin, or fighting legal issues, as was the case of some former Eastern European dictators.

Orizio shows how the likes of Bokassa, Mengistu and Jaruzelski had felt let down by the Soviet Union and in particular Mikhael Gorbachev. But he also created an understanding how these fallen leaders were so deluded in understanding the dynamics of the new world order and political status quo.

Jean-Claude Duvalier desposed of in Haiti, was perched in a Paris cafe with his European female companion and three chins lighter used his interview to show that his rule was one of compassion and in the interests of his people, but failed to acknowledge the murders and death squads under his rule. Duvalier, like all interviewed in the book showed his aloofness by saying ‘I had to do what I had for the interests of the country.’

Orizio shows through his journalism an insight into the minds of these people, but for Hoxha and Milosevic he adds in conversations and personal experiences of the victims and perpetrators of the regime in order to bring an understanding what life was really like in a post Hoxha Albania or why Bosnian Serbs acted with barbarism during the Bosnian war.

The comparisons from the book were also interesting. Each fallen leader apart from Amin were more interested in current affairs, rather than dream of going back home. Each leader, however blamed their enemies, foreign agents and former loved ones for their demise. Quotes such as  the “brutality of regime were invented by enemies, ” “people loved me,” or “I was brought down by treachery,”  and most common of all was the “country is  worse off now”.

Orizio provided a simple narrative adding with how his journey to meet some of the former despots included bribes, conversations with taxi drivers, a night in a police cell and countless visits to random homes.

Orizio painted a picture of their lives, how they had fallen from grace together with the many questions in their mind “if they only had stayed in power.”

Bokassa remembered when the Pope had proclaimed him as the 13th apostle and how he was the emperor of Central Africa, yet now he had to rely on his children. Mengistu in a funny incident he denied how he was a cannibal and that while living in Zimbabwe he wished he had a bigger home.

These once leaders who either were feared or loved showed how their rule, which was  connected with misery and terror were now living out their own lives in misery and in fear of death.

Overall a good book to read for those who may want to find out what had happened to Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Mrs Hoxha, Baby Doc Duvalier, Colonel Mengistu and Mira Milosevic.