Just as Tony Blair’s legacy is defined by the Iraq war, David Cameron’s premiership will also be judged by a single decision: to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. Thus, it’s inevitable that Europe also overshadows Cameron’s new memoir, For the Record.
In his memoir, A Journey, Blair acknowledged the polarisation and anger caused by his support for George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, though he also insisted that he took the decision in good faith. Similarly, For the Record begins with Cameron’s apology for the consequences of Brexit: “I am truly sorry to have seen the country I love so much suffer uncertainty and division in the years since then. But...”
Cameron also accepts some of the responsibility for losing the referendum campaign: “I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed. The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed. But, in my defence...”
This remorse and regret is always followed by a qualifying ‘but’, and he insists that the referendum itself was justified: “I am not apologetic about having been the prime minister who promised a referendum and delivered on the promise.” Cameron is equally unapologetic about austerity. Quite the opposite, in fact: “My assessment now is that we probably didn’t cut enough.”
As for Boris Johnson, Cameron calls him “an irritation” and later, for good measure, “a massive irritation.” He’s also clear about Johnson’s motives for supporting Brexit: “while Boris cared about this issue, it was secondary to another concern: what was the best outcome for him?”
As even Vote Leave admit, the £350m-a-week on the bus was a calculated deception. Cameron puts it rather effectively: “As Boris rode the bus around the country, he left the truth at home.” Absolutely, except now Boris is in the driving seat and, like the end of The Italian Job, we’re teetering on the edge of a cliff.