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Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  453 ratings  ·  58 reviews
As David Cameron's director of Politics and communications, Craig Oliver was in the room at every key moment during the EU referendum - the biggest political event in the UK since World War 2.

Craig Oliver worked with all the players, including David Cameron, George Osbourne, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May and Peter Mand

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton
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Andrew Smith
The Brexit wounds are still fresh, so what better time to get the views of David Cameron’s communications chief on how the whole thing played out. The book takes the form of daily diary updates. After opening with the cataclysmic climax to the UK’s vote, we are taken back to the beginning of the referendum campaign. Most of the events covered here seem familiar (and why not, they were covered comprehensively on the wall to wall television and radio news updates I avidly watched) but it was inter ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Subtitled, “The Inside Story of Brexit,” this is the first in what will, undoubtedly, be many books about the referendum. It does, however, have a very interesting author – both in terms of his level of involvement and his access to the major players and in his obvious commitment to the Remain campaign. Craig Oliver was David Cameron’s Director of Politics and Communications and this book takes us through January, 2016, with Cameron renegotiating a deal with Europe, up until the aftermath of the ...more
Lena B
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this to get out of my " leftie echo chamber" and am proud to announce that I've successfully made it through 400 pages of this torie's diary entries! ...more
Joseph Cope
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
I didn't get very far with this. Written from diary entries, there is little context or reflection. An extra star though for comments re some new carpets and what was had for lunch in the back of a car. Clearly this is one persons perspective, quite raw, and written very close to the action. As that it probably works OK if you have the patience and an interest in the minutiae of politics (Andrew Marr loved it). For sure it is an interesting topic- how did it all go so wrong? - but for myself I w ...more
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
The story of the Brexit referendum, as told from the point of view of an aide to David Cameron working on behalf of the Remain side. UNLEASHING DEMONS is as fast-moving, powerfully told and exciting as you'd expect from this febrile period, and no matter your views on the eventual outcome, this makes for a gripping read. Oliver delivers a down-to-earth and naturalistic prose style in which character is everything, while at the same time offering more than reasoned criticism towards the various f ...more
Old Bob
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an interesting account of one of the greatest days in recent British history. The people ignored Remain's lies and voted for independence. ...more
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book and a real glimpse into Downing Street at a crucial time. I learned a lot about the plotting of communications and their relationship with the press. What I didn't realise was how 'rehearsed' the cross party debates were and how scripted some of them had to be - it is a worry that MPs cannot answer questions without a script that is written by someone else. It also totally highlights Labour leadership lack of engagement in the whole campaign. Was the leader a 'closet leaver?'. Man ...more
Michael Heath-Caldwell
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all
Shelves: history, britain
In the age of the crabby electorate that voted for 'Boaty McBoat Face the 'Remainers' dogmatically persist in down playing the migration issue, which has impacted on so many UK residents.

'Remainer' organisers tried using fear tactics, threatening a one-off referendum, no second chances, to coerce the electorate to vote 'remain,' but are now backsliding non-stop to reverse the decision.

Cameron's last meeting with Merkel after the referendum show how dogmatic about open migration she was. this sh
This certainly is what it claims to be - an insider's view on Brexit!
I guess that wasn't really what I was after when I ordered it, though. It is such an insider's view that we are introduced to a huge range of characters, the vast majority of whom were not major players in the events. And for someone who is just interested in an analysis of why it all happened the way it did, I must admit it was a case of massively too much detail.
It seems to me that you would have to be a complete political
Ali Ilman
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unleashing Demons, the inside story of Brexit by Craig Oliver.

When the referendum took place over 4 years ago, I was only a wee lad. Still am! 😂 British politics weren’t one of my interests, I was playing games all day long and I was still homeschooled.

Though ever since I grew older, coupled with my increasing fondness for England, I had read more about Brexit and right now am witnessing a terrific comedy show going on at Number 10. It’s an utter shambles. I’ve always thought that Leave winning
Chris Hall
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I suppose that any book about Brexit is going to have to deal with at least two issues:

1 - Brexit isn't over yet so it's too early for any conclusions

2 - Impartiality will be difficult on such a divisive issue

The book gets around the first point by not actually being about Brexit - it's actually about the EU referendum. (The cover image has a subtitle '... of the EU Referendum' though my copy says '... Brexit')

With regard to the second point: There's absolutely no attempt at impartiality. To be
C. A. Powell
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this fly on the wall account of the losing Remain team's efforts to win the EU referendum. One is taken through the various stages of the build up to the referendum. The negotiated new EU deal etc. It obviously points out the reasons why the Remain team wanted to stay in the EU with its economic argument. There still seemed to be the failure to recognise why the majority of the UK electorate would not be swayed. What I mean is they accept they lost and why, but there still seemed to be ...more
Alejandro Shirvani
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent political diary from an insider. Oliver has had time to reflect on the reasons behind Remain's defeat in the referendum and reading this account you can see the problems building. It does leave you feeling like Cameron and his associates were burned by complacency and thought they could switch from an equivocal stance or being Eurosceptic when it suited them for political reasons, to endorsing EU membership and felt they would take the country with them. A chapter on 'how it feels to b ...more
Neil Lakeland
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it liked it
The book is written like a journal, which sometimes can mean events are not presented as linked together. I found myself a few times having to go back to recheck the chain of events.

David Cameron is presented in a very positive light and clearly the author has a very good opinion of him. I am not entirely sure it is justified.

The part I appreciated the most was the realistic presentation of the bafflement of the Remain campaign in regards to the lengths the Leave campaign was willing to go to an
Adrian S
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The author, who is the former Director of Communications under British PM David Cameron, presents his book as an inside account of the events leading up to the Brexit vote in the summer of 2016.

Craig Oliver's experience as a senior government media representative who is talented at preparing and communicating extremely complex and emotional political facts for the public at large is immediately recognizable, so I don't have a lot to add.

The only thing I would highlight, perhaps, is the following
norman stewart
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Behind the Black Door of No. 10

I found the book somewhat repetitive as the months leading towards the final date in June 2016 are detailed. At times it seemed to be a very one sided story and even now trying to remember some of the news items it was difficult to recall the facts. I had no idea how much emphasis was placed on speech writing, creating Bullet Points to push without definitive explained detail, and the amount of rehearsal to be carried out....if you wore a jacket , it sent a message
Ramesh Abhiraman
Jan 22, 2021 rated it liked it
In this book, David Cameron's campaign manager for the Remain initiative describes how he retched and vomited after the referendum and the "morning after" at No.10 Downing Street, as people prepared to resign.
As in the entire Brexit saga, nothing too edifying.
Not even British prose with its supposed differences from the American can save the reader from the trainwreck that was Brexit. At least, without flinching or making excuses, Craig Oliver explains why momentum inevitably led David Cameron t
Tara Brabazon
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book captures the slow motion train wreck of the EU referendum. Written by Cameron's Director of Politics and Communication, it covers the day-to-day shambles that was the racist, xenophobic and post-fact campaign to leave Europe. The futility of fighting racism with evidence is captured in these pages. But the incapacity to create a strong communication message from the Remain group is also very clear.

It is not well written and it is a bit baggy like an unedited diary, but the daily debacl
Russell Whiting
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a pretty interesting account of the EU Referendum but only from the Tory side. The only references to anyone outside the Tory party either comes in passing or with criticism. It's written more in the form of long notes rather than a details account or diary, and is full of moments when Oliver can apparently see something bad coming, but does nothing to try and stop it.

Be prepared to read phrases like "Everyone agreed with me" and "Everyone said what a great job I was doing" and constant
Josep Marti
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best political thrillers I have ever read. Having finished Owen Bennett’s account, which focuses on the Leave campaign, Oliver’s insights were useful and interesting to understand the Remainers. It has the right anecdotes to make it funny, the narrative is good enough to keep the reader turning pages, and the position of the author as Cameron’s spin doctor makes room for some good reflections and thoughts on the referendum and the campaign— and the results, in the expanded ver ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
This book confirms that the ridiculous reasons to justify both the referendum and Brexit itself were even worse than they appeared. Nobody comes out of this looking good, but the author directs particular ire at BoJo, Gove and Corbyn. Cameron just seems a bit tired and bewildered, and Osborne is nowhere to be seen. Confirms my belief that there is an immense vacuum of power in British politics. I only hope we survive the hateful process over the next few weeks, and that the unleashed demons can ...more
Laura Buckley
I found this an incredibly interesting account of the Brexit mess, told from the inside. I don't think the writing was great - there were a few anecdotes related that were set up as if they were funny, and I personally found most of the book incredibly dry - but it wasn't bad either. Solid, middle-of-the-road story telling, and the story was wild enough to carry the whole thing off.

Definitely frustrating at times, but I think that's more a function of my feelings about Brexit than my feelings ab
Geoff Cantrell
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read, lifting the lid on behind closed doors events before and in the aftermath of the EU Referendum. It helped to fill in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge of what happened in this momentous campaign, although obviously a little biased, but nonetheless a very helpful commentary, recording events as they happened and revealed that the truth was sometimes the last consideration when it came to winning minds and votes.
Some well known people come out of this story well, certain other
Nicholas Smith
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating insight into a a frantic 6 months in Craig's life dealing with the Brexit debate and campaign and all the characters involved. It reads like a story rather than a diary, which is much more interesting, and I guess was written on the run. It is fast-paced, descriptive, and I enjoyed the honest approach. How he and his team kept going is quite remarkable. The best political book I have read - although I repeat it is written as a story. I knew Gove was and is a weasel.... ...more
Jason Wilson
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oliver was David Cameron’s communications advisor after Andy Coulson, foisted on Cameron by Murdoch, was thrown to the wolves to take the rap for the phone hacking scandal. His account of what went on is electric. There is some good analysis, balance, and I couldn’t agree more that whether or nit hesitant works out well for us in the end, the real damage is the dividing of both government and country ideologically.
Ziad Daoud
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reads like a diary – an insider’s chronology of the events from the beginning of 2016 to the Brexit referendum. Raw information without much analysis but plenty of references to bad food and bias. Cameron is always composed and in control; not a single bad media performance. The others? Boris is an inconsiderate attention-seeker, Gove is disloyal and toxic, Corbyn is weak and indecisive, May went absent during the campaign.
Marsilla Dewi-Baruch
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Oliver propels his tale of Strong In campaign, from daily polls to combatting the hard myths spewed by the leavers. My expectation is more of projected impact on UK economy, although the story took place before brexit referendum. It would give an idea how the future economy was perceived pre-referendum, as to what is seen coming Jan 2021. Too bad Oliver who is dedicated to his work, had to leave HMS which his talent could contribute more to UK.
Lisa Norcross
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book interesting but also intensely annoying. I think that Brexit is a disaster for the UK and the Remain campaign was a shambles. Here is one of the perpetrators of said shambles basically blaming everyone else (mainly the BBC and the newspapers) for their failure. A bit more introspection would have been nice
Nicola Ray
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredible insight in to how the political machine operates during a major campaign. Set against the febrile atmosphere of the referendum, Oliver takes you through the daily grind of meetings and phone conversations whilst maintaining an engaging pace. I found the "behind the scenes" revelations fascinating and well written. This is a must read if you're interested in politics. ...more
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