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All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit…
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All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class

by Tim Shipman

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862213,454 (4.11)11
Based on Tim Shipman?s unrivaled access to the key politicians and their advisors across all parties, ALL OUT WAR will give an account from all sides of how politics got to this state of implosion, from David Cameron?s pledge to hold a referendum, through to the campaign itself, the resignation of the prime minister and the betrayals and rivalries that have come to light in the fall-out. As British politics have endured their most extraordinary changes since May 1940, this account - filled with stories, anecdotes and juicy leaks - explains how the status quo was shattered.… (more)

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It is now almost two years since the referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union. The resultant decision to leave has proved to be the single most significant political event in Britain throughout most of our lifetime’s, and its reverberations are still being felt.

From the outside it might seem simply to have been a fairly straightforward binary option, with followers of either side campaigning against adherents of the other. Oh, if only it had been that straightforward! Tim Shipman’s comprehensive, and admirably non-partisan, account shows how seriously divided both sides, but particularly those advocating that Britain should leave, really were.

Indeed, for the various Brexiteers, simple discussions about the relative merits of staying or leaving were the easy part. Their own side was bitterly riven apart, with four or five different organisations fighting tooth and nail to secure formal designation as the official campaign for leaving. This was not just a matter of ideological purity, although Shipman has great fun involving the bitter schism between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea from The Life of Brian. Securing the formal designation brought with it access to substantial public funding, and entitlement to subsidised campaign broadcasts on terrestrial television. It also carried significant implications for the leading individual campaigners, and any positions that they might hope to occupy following a successful outcome.

Things were slightly easier for those advocating that Britain should remain in the EU, although it proved far from plain sailing. Although individual members of the government were given autonomy to campaign for whichever side they preferred, staying in the EU remained official government policy. Personal gripes still manifested themselves during the remain campaign, even though there was only one central organising body. Perhaps the Remainers simply weren’t hungry enough. Campaigning to maintain a status quo is always likely to be less energising that pushing for significant change, and it seems as if the Brexiteers simply wanted their outcome more.

Shipman has drawn on a vast selection of sources, including an impressive journalistic archive and his own (often unattributed) conversations with most of the leading participants. Even though we all know the outcome, the book is gripping throughout, presented almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. At times hilarious, there are also episodes that provoke fury at the utter incompetence of leading figures on both sides of the issue, who frequently displayed emotional illiteracy or an utter incapacity for empathy.

The bitterness and personal enmity (not to mention the Shakespearean similarities) continued after the referendum, as manifested in the bizarre machinations within the struggle to secure the Conservative leadership. Machiavelli, Iago and Bosola would have been in their element within that farrago of pledges and sleights of hand, as one by one the challengers to Theresa May fell by the wayside.

The ‘what if’ counterfactual novel has become very popular over recent years, with works such as Robert Harris’s Fatherland or the late Philip Roth’s the Plot Against America exploring alternative historical outcomes. I feel sure that within a few years we will start seeing novels considering alternative outcomes of the Brexit.

Tim Shipman’s book is both informative and entertaining, proving once again how much stranger fact can be than fiction. ( )
  Eyejaybee | May 23, 2018 |
All Out War is an utterly gripping, supremely well-researched account of the tumultuous Brexit campaign and it's immediate fallout in British Politics. It is the essence of 2016. ( )
  gareth.russell | Jun 18, 2017 |
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Based on Tim Shipman?s unrivaled access to the key politicians and their advisors across all parties, ALL OUT WAR will give an account from all sides of how politics got to this state of implosion, from David Cameron?s pledge to hold a referendum, through to the campaign itself, the resignation of the prime minister and the betrayals and rivalries that have come to light in the fall-out. As British politics have endured their most extraordinary changes since May 1940, this account - filled with stories, anecdotes and juicy leaks - explains how the status quo was shattered.

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