Review of All Out War

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  • Background


The Brexit vote of 2016 shocked the world, but maybe it shouldn’t have. British voters’ disenchantment with the European Union was apparent to anyone who knew where to look for it, journalist Tim Shipman reports in this engaging – if slightly long – chronicle of the Brexit battle. During the Remain or Leave campaign, Shipman closely covered the most prominent figures on both sides. Shipman gives a blow-by-blow account of the battle as it was fought by Remain supporter David Cameron and Leave advocates Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. He relies on high-level access to government insiders to give details about such pivotal moments as Gove’s decision to support Leave and, later, to pull the plug on Johnson’s bid to become prime minister. 

Amid the moment-by-moment details, Shipman also paints a broader picture: Cameron and other Remain supporters simply misread the mood of the electorate, while Gove and Johnson had a better feel – and a clearer message. In Shipman’s telling, Cameron comes across as sincere if out of touch. Johnson is charismatic if given to bumbling, while Theresa May – who ultimately succeeded Cameron as prime minister – is ruthlessly effective. This account is told as a page-turner, but readers accustomed to American English might scratch their heads at Shipman’s use of such words and phrases as scuppered, sod off and hustings.

About the Author

Tim Shipman is the political editor of The Sunday Times. He has been a national newspaper journalist since 1997, and in 16 years of writing about politics, he has also reported from Westminster for the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express.


Here are eight takeaways from All Out War:

1. The political mainstream misread the mood of the electorate outside London.

Brits in London voted overwhelmingly for Remain. But voters elsewhere were far more skeptical of maintaining Britain’s tie to Europe, Shipman writes. David Cameron, then prime minister, acknowledged as much in a 2013 speech, stating that “democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer-thin.” Working-class citizens griped about stagnant wages and claimed their kids were being crowded out at school by immigrants who didn’t speak English.

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