Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit is one of the worst books on any subject that I have read in a long time. It is a blow-by-boring-blow account of David Cameron’s referendum campaign, principally in the media of mass communication, to keep Britain in the European Union. It was written by Craig Oliver, whose job was director of politics and communications in David Cameron’s administration, a title instinct with dishonesty. At least one knows what a second-hand car salesman does.
But a very bad book may, in its own way, be highly instructive, as this one is. If mediocrity can ever be said to shine, then it shines from these pages. The writer, though a journalist, has no literary ability whatsoever. He writes entirely in clichés, there is not a single arresting thought in over 400 pages, wit and even humour are entirely absent, and he seems unable to use a metaphor, almost always tired to begin with, without mixing it (‘we are likely to succumb on this if they get on their high horses and cry foul’). He has no powers of analysis and no sense of history; there is no plumbing his shallows.
Nevertheless this was someone at the center of power for several years. Everyone around him, including the Prime Minister (the dullest man ever to hold the position), comes off as just as uninteresting as he: though it has to be admitted that the author could make Talleyrand seem a bore. The one outstanding quality that these mediocrities seem to share is ambition. It is disconcerting for the citizen to be faced so starkly by the fact that ambitious mediocrity is now the main characteristic of those who rule him.