Don’t even think about a com­pro­mise

A rush to chron­i­cle Brexit led to con­spir­acy the­o­ries – and de­cent jokes. By Asa Ben­nett

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - CONTENTS -

West­min­ster has been con­sumed by the twists and turns of the Brexit process this year, and it dom­i­nated the new po­lit­i­cal books, too. The best had to be Robert Saun­ders’s

Yes to Eu­rope! The 1975 Ref­er­en­dum and Sev­en­ties Bri­tain

(CUP, £24.99), which looks at the 2016 vote through the prism of Bri­tain’s ear­lier de­ci­sion to re­main in the Eu­ro­pean Club by 67.2 per cent to 32.8 per cent.

Af­ter the re­sult, a ju­bi­lant Neil Kin­nock said: “Only an id­iot would ig­nore or re­sent a ma­jor­ity like this. We’re in for­ever.” If David Cameron had taken more tips from Harold Wil­son’s han­dling of that ear­lier ref­er­en­dum (in his rene­go­ti­a­tion, he pur­sued prac­ti­cal, rather than ide­o­log­i­cal, con­ces­sions, and stayed above the fray to help hold his party to­gether), Kin­nock might not have been proven so em­phat­i­cally wrong two years ago.

Other books of­fered in­tel­lec­tual cat­nip for Re­main­ers, such as Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce’s


Books, £50), which ar­gues that the Brexit vote was the re­sult of Right-wingers ex­ploit­ing im­pe­rial nos­tal­gia. This leads them loftily to con­clude that try­ing to re­place the EU with the Com­mon­wealth is doomed to fail­ure, which is a sadly re­duc­tive take on the “Global Bri­tain” en­vis­aged by Brex­i­teers. More in­sight­ful was Steve Buck­ledee’s fit­tingly suc­cinct

(Blooms­bury, £55), which ex­plains how the emo­tive lan­guage used by Brex­i­teers in 2016 over­pow­ered the Re­main­ers’ rhetor­i­cal hedg­ing.

Politi­cians con­tinue to cam­paign in prose, with An­drew Ado­nis team­ing up with fel­low Re­moaner a “badger” be­cause of a white streak in his hair.

Many read­ers will want to tear their own hair out over how politi­cians have han­dled things this year. Is­abel Hard­man’s riv­et­ing

Shad­ows of Em­pire The Lan­guage of Brexit Why We Get the Wrong Politi­cians

(At­lantic, £18.99) ex­plains the ob­sta­cles that dis­suade po­ten­tially bril­liant MPs from stand­ing, and leave us with a po­lit­i­cal class that of­ten meets our low­est ex­pec­ta­tions. She doesn’t hold back on crit­i­cisms, but she also gives very sen­si­ble ideas for re­form. Here’s hop­ing lots of MPs get it in their Christ­mas stock­ing. A stand­out among re­cent Young Adult books about the First World War is this beau­ti­fully un­rav­elled fam­ily saga about three cousins. (Macmil­lan)

by Hi­lary McKay

COUNT ME OUTBar­bara Cas­tle cam­paigns to exit Eu­rope in 1975

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