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Includes the name: Tim Shipman


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Halloween has passed without us leaving the EU (thank goodness) and appropriately enough I finished Tim Shipman’s ‘All Out War’ today.
It’s a compelling and meticulous account of the Brexit Referendum that’s extremely readable despite the complexity of the events being relayed. It’s a fascinating book and achieved for me the author’s intended aim of giving readers on either side of the debate a better understanding and appreciation of the motives of the other side.
Perhaps unsurprisingly (given that the author is political editor of The Sunday Times) it does a much better job of explaining the Tory side of the story than it does the Labour one. The Conservative players are fully formed characters with motivations and personalities, whilst Labour is more or less portrayed as a big dysfunctional blob. Not sure if this is bias on the part of the author or just a result of Labour players being less willing to talk to him, but it cost the book a star for me.
Nevertheless, it’s a book I throughly recommend and I’ll be diving into the sequel very soon.

… (mais)
whatmeworry | outras 3 resenhas | Apr 9, 2022 |
Another excellent and compelling retelling of recent political history from Tim Shipman. It’s an enjoyable and insightful follow up to ‘All Out War’ and gripped me like a thriller. The slight Tory bias is the first book is still there, but doesn’t spoil things took much. The series is pitched as a trilogy, which makes me worry about how massive a tome book 3 will have to be...
whatmeworry | 1 outra resenha | Apr 9, 2022 |
This review originally appeared on Goodreads (hence the reference to lots of others giving it 4-5 stars): If you'd rather stick pins in your eyes than plough through 600 pages, I've summarised what I thought were the most interesting points in a review here: http://paulsamael.com/blog/all-out-war

But why 3 stars rather than the 4 or 5 that everyone else seems to be giving it here? Well, on the positive side, it's a very interesting and detailed (if overly long) account of what went wrong for Remain and what went right for Leave. But it falls down on the bigger picture.

In particular, I think the author is far too quick to credit people such as Dominic Cummings, Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks with stunning tactical genius. What the book really demonstrates, it seems to me, is that although both Leave campaigns were undeniably more ruthless than Remain, they also got lucky.

Cummings & Co were convinced that Farage & Co were toxic and tried to run a more high-minded campaign: this helped in the sense that it made people who were put off by the UKIP brigade feel that they could vote Leave without being labelled as racist fruitcakes. Meanwhile Farage & Co thought that Cummings & Co's strategy was hopeless and concentrated instead on populist anti-immigration rhetoric: this helped in the sense that it persuaded quite a lot of people to vote who hardly ever vote in elections.

So although this should have been a recipe for mixed messages and disaster, it worked extremely well for Leave as it allowed them to appeal to different sections of the voting public - but in no way can it be said to have been a conscious strategy because clearly, both wings of the Leave campaign despised each other (even though in reality, in order to win, they needed each other).

And where else did Leave get lucky? Well, Remain ran a crap campaign based on crap polling (the book is quite good on pointing out all the flaws in Remain's approach). Although Leavers are apt to claim that this was the biggest vote ever in favour of anything, the fact is that it would only have taken 700,000 people out of 33.5 million to put their cross in the Remain box for the result to have been different. To my mind, that is a close result in a national referendum - and it is certainly not the basis for the kind of sweeping mandate that Brexiters now claim they have for a hard Brexit.

But what really made my blood boil was the conclusion, where the author basically says we need to stop making a fuss about brazenly false claims like spending £350 a million a week on the EU. I can't remember a previous campaign where the lies were quite so brazen, particularly from Leave (the book makes clear that this was a deliberate strategy by both Leave campaigns, influenced in the case of Farage & Co by Trump).

In most other campaigns, these would have been called out by the media - but the BBC was so obsessed with balance and afraid of offending Leavers that it never really got to grips with the lies and much of the rest of the media was happy not to take issue with dodgy claims unless they were made by Remain (and I accept that Remain was not blameless either). The trouble is, the author is a journalist for the Sunday Times, so he was hardly going to point the finger at his own kind. Anyway, read it for the fascinating detail but don't expect much in the way of proper analysis.
… (mais)
Paul_Samael | outras 3 resenhas | Nov 9, 2019 |
Tim Shipman’s previous book, All Out War, gave an engaging and detailed account of the lead up to the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, and the immediate aftermath, covering the resignation of David Cameron and the subsequent internecine strife within the Conservative Party that led to Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Fall Out picks up the story, and covers the year that followed her ascension to Downing Street, culminating shortly after the unexpectedly inconclusive general election of June 2017.

I seem to have read a lot of volumes of political history over the last few years. I had always been interested in politics, anyway, and that preoccupation has been piqued through working in a number of different ministers’ private offices across a couple of government departments. This was, however, the first time that I had read such an impartial account published quite so soon after the events that it relates. Much of Shipman’s mastery lies in the immediacy of his account.

I don’t know where his own political preferences lie. I remember most of the events that he recounts very clearly, and feel that he has maintained an impartial perspective throughout. While never reluctant to convey disdain of certain politicians’ obtuseness, he scatters his scorn even-handedly. I was particularly impressed by the range of politicians and senior officials with whom he seems to have spoken, also right across the political divide.

One of the most illuminating aspects of the book is his account of the reign of terror conducted by Theresa May’s senior political advisers, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy. Their scorn was distributed fairly evenhandedly, too, and they were clearly just as happy bullying and ridiculing ministers of state as they were to terrorise mere officials. Disappointingly, Theresa May seems, at best, to have turned a blind eye to their disgraceful behaviour, although the insinuation that she approved of, even if never specifically commissioning, their activities is difficult to challenge.

Regardless of the political complexion of the government, I have always believed that it is in everyone’s interest that we have a strong opposition. Shipman makes clear that, following the as yet unhealed internal divisions within the Conservatives following their post-Referendum leadership contest, the Government seemed holed below the waterline, and offered an easy target for Her Majesty’s Opposition. Only there was no Opposition. While the Conservative tore themselves apart following David Cameron’s resignation, they did at least manage to appoint a new leader within a matter of a few weeks. Meanwhile, the Labour Party, having gone through one painful leadership contest that resulted with apparent rank outsider Jeremy Corbyn emerging as runaway winner, chose to plunge itself into a second contest, rendering the same result but with an even bigger margin, although it took several months to do so. All of which makes the Labour resurgence in the 2017 general election such a surprise.

The clear lesson from Shipman’s book is the enduring peril of political hubris. Labour centrists refused to believe that the party could appoint a genuinely socialist leader, while Theresa May failed to acknowledge the possibility that she would not be returned to Downing Street with a Thatcheresque landslide majority. As in a Greek tragedy, in which the oracle has offered its occluded prophesy, both those conceits would be punctured in the most brutal fashion. Unfortunately, amusing though such outcomes and fractured vanities might appear in the abstract, the consequent uncertainly currently remains unresolved. I am intrigued to know what Mr Shipman’s next book might be, but suspect that I might find the ending rather frightening.
… (mais)
Eyejaybee | 1 outra resenha | Jun 10, 2018 |


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